The WriteMark Plain English Conference and Awards 2007 was an invigorating bash. And that's a compliment: you can't always say that about a conference. Highlights for me ...
- MCs Duncan Sarkies and Lee Hatherly amused us throughout the day, and surreptitiously kept proceedings on track.
- We had choices. Which meant we moved from room to room. Which meant we did not turn into rice puddings.
- Lynda Harris of the Write Group, leader of the plain English movement in New Zealand, gave a couple of short, clear, inspiring speeches. Lynda proved yet again that she is a professional heavyweight.
- Dr Annetta Cheek discussed the fulltime strategising (if that's a word), lobbying, drafting, discussions and compromise behind the Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2007. Dr Cheek has been a prime mover in the plain language movement in the USA since 1994, and retired expressly to push for this bill. We have no such legislation and we should get cracking.
- Dr Susan Kleimann focused on documents derived from regulationsâ€”policy in action, such as tax forms. She spoke of the need for high level policy analysts to let go of what they â€œknowâ€, and to think about the reader. This is not a straight think + write process.
- Christopher Balmford trounced all the recurring objections to plain language, and demonstrated the extent of our own hypocrisy. As readers, everyone in our group liked a subject line "We underpaid you", but 13/15 would be uneasy about writing it. Christopher took no prisoners.
- Dave Brown of A.J. Park and Anton Murashev of Castalia gave the good news about transforming companies into plain English organisations. It can be done.
- Nathan McDonald handed out small cards that summarise key points of his Mustor Institute. Cool idea. Here's a clue: You MUST pay this invoice OR go to jail. The structure applies to regulations and procedures about everything from international traffic in arms to managing kakapo copulation.
- John Ansell's keynote address at the awards was very funny. He's a poet and punning advertiser. Kevin Milne as MC was again an inspired choice.
- My brand new Asus eee PC worked nicely on battery. But only for 2.5 hours.
- In a democracy, citizens deserve plain language. It's a civil right. (A.C.)
- Complicated is easy. Clarity is simplicity. Simplicity is hard... but possible. (S.K.)
- The thicker the report, the thicker the writer. (J.A.)
- 89 percent of people don't want change, they want things to stay the same. (S.K.)
- You must have measures of success: otherwise people just whine. (S.K.)
- You can't train managers but you can brief them. (A.C.)
- Many aphorisms from C.B. but I was laughing too hard to write them down.
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