What does being plain language certified mean?

What does being plain language certified mean?

Thinking of getting your documents, website or organisation plain language certified?

This article explains that being plain language certified means:

  • saving money
  • meeting an international standard
  • providing a human right.
A finger presses a button on a computer keyboard. The button has a folder with a tick and the word ‘certified’ on it. The person pressing the button has plain language certified documents.

Certification means that you save money

We offer plain language certification for documents, websites and organisations. We use our Verbumetric® evaluation to assess documents, websites and organisations against our criteria for content, structure, design, expression and style.

Our Verbumetric evaluation includes a report on our analysis with suggestions on how to improve your overall score and examples that show you exactly how to do it.

Documents, websites and organisations that meet our gold standard communicate so clearly that readers can:

  • find the information they need
  • understand what they find
  • act on this information.

When you communicate this clearly, you’re less likely to waste time dealing with miscommunication. For example, New Zealand’s Ministry of Internal Affairs translated just 1 application form into plain language. The error rate in completed application forms dropped from 66% to just 10%. This type of result leads to significant productivity gains.

Clear communication can also save money.

For example, the US Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) reviewed the letter it sent to veterans to remind them to update their beneficiaries. If a veteran dies without a beneficiary, VBA staff must find and contact an appropriate one. The response rate for the original letter was 43%. When VBA introduced a plain language version of the letter, response rates rose to 65%. This saved $4.4 million in staff time.

For more plain language savings, check out our blog post or Dr Joseph Kimble’s book, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please 2nd edition.

Certification means that you meet an international standard

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently published: Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines (ISO 24495-1).

All our workshops, resources and editing services align with this standard. This includes our Verbumetric evaluation. So if we certify you, you can be sure you are also meeting the international standard.

Closer to home, Australian anti-discrimination laws, style and communication guides require government organisations to write documents for the public in a way that they can understand. Plain language helps to meet this standard – it makes documents more accessible, inclusive and equitable.  

Want your writing to be

Turn writing at work into writing that works with our ISO-aligned plain language system.

Certification means that you provide a human right

In 2018, we reviewed the Services Australia website – it scored an impressive 88%. This was one of the best websites we’d ever seen and it achieved our gold standard for certification. It continues to set the benchmark for customer-centric design and clear communication.

But why did Services Australia pursue a plain language certification, and how did they achieve it?

We first began working with Services Australia when it was the Department of Human Services. They asked for our support when it merged the Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support Agency websites.

The Chief Website Editor, Julie Watkins-Lyall said, ‘Access to information is a basic human right. We must make sure our information and services are accessible to all Australians, including those with disabilities and special needs.’

Under Julie’s guidance, the department revised hundreds of pages and rewrote thousands of words to bring all the content into a single site. We helped by providing communications and web writing training, editing services, style guides and regular evaluations.

When we evaluated the website in 2018, it was the best website we’d ever assessed with our Verbumetric evaluation system. We were particularly impressed with how well the department presented its material to make it accessible to the diverse range of users that visit the site every day.

We offer plain language certification

To get plain language certified, contact our consulting and editing team today. We have a suite of evidence-based tools to evaluate or certify your writing and identify areas for improvement.

We offer plain language workshops to help you get ready for plain language certification. Choose from online or face-to-face workshops wherever you are around Australia. Or take advantage of our state-of-the-art training facilities in capital cities from Brisbane to Perth. You can find descriptions of all our workshops on our website or contact our friendly sales team for help choosing the right workshop for you.

Part of the EdventureCo Group