Dr Neil James


Executive Director


Neil is 'Dr Plain English', the man whose passion for clear communication gave life to the Foundation. He oversees all aspects of our work, drawing from his many years of experience as a trainer, editor, writer and speaker.

Neil also leads our community program, campaigning for clearer, more ethical public language.

After starting his career in government and the media, Neil worked as a book reviewer and freelance editor. He then established a communications consultancy within Halstead Press.

When a state Treasury asked him whether he could ‘teach us how you do that’, he and fellow writer Dr Peta Spear set up what became the Plain English Foundation in 2003. The Foundation has now helped tens of thousands of professionals in over 250 organisations to improve their communication.

Professional qualifications

  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (HBA Learning Centres)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in English (University of Sydney)
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English (University of Sydney)


Neil has published 3 books and over 75 articles and essays on language and literature.

His co-authored book, Modern Manglish, skewers the worst excesses of tautology, doublespeak and mixed metaphors, illustrated by Australia’s premier editorial cartoonist Alan Moir. His previous book, Writing at Work, has become a standard reference on workplace communication.

Neil is a regular speaker about language in the media throughout Australia, where he features on the ABC Radio network. He often presents at Australian and international events, which have taken him from Amsterdam, Dublin, Oslo and Washington to Antwerp, Auckland, Lisbon and Mexico City.

He is also active in developing the plain language profession. He has served as both President and Vice President of PLAIN, the international plain language association. In 2009, he was co-convenor of the biennial PLAIN conference. In 2008, he was elected to chair the International Plain Language Working Group that is developing international standards and certification for practitioners.


 Our clients say

Neil's passion for writing is so infectious. He reignited my love of the English language.

Project manager, environmental consultancy

We were lucky to have the benefit of an expert in communication.

Executive officer, educational organisation

Neil's presentation made the workshop so enjoyable it didn't feel like work at all!

Communications director, social services agency