Seven decades, seven lessons for writers

I’m gearing up for Vancouver’s PLAIN2013 conference in October, and getting a bit excited. All the speakers have been asked to answer three questions for the conference blog. You might be interested in what I’ll be doing so far from home. I’m straying from my usual topics…

1. Why is plain language important in your work?
Plain language is the foundation of everything I do in my daily work. Essentially, our company trains knowledge workers to write in a digital environment. That means I tackle everything from content strategy to learning design, from usability testing to web accessibility standards, from slideshows to global English. Wherever I turn, the prime rule of plain language applies: put the reader first.

2. What is your presentation focus, and what are some of the key points participants will learn?
I will give two utterly different presentations, as befits a plain language advocate who also writes poems and novels.

On Friday morning I’ll be with the other authors in the Barclay Room, where I’ll chat about one of my books,Global English for Global Business. Plain English is an excellent starting point for international communication, but it needs a few tweaks.

Just like you, I also have a creative self that needs nurturing. So after lunch, around 12.30, I’ll speak about Knowledge, wisdom, and the joy of writing in the Nelson Room.

How can you find time for your own writing when you have to earn a living? And why on earth is it twice as hard for you — an expert on good writing — to write a book? After a lifetime as a double agent, I know the problems and I can help. I’m planning to share seven tips from seven decades: it’ll be fun.

3. What is the best plain language advice you can give?

  • Plain language principles are fundamental to accessibility, usability, and useful search results.
  • Structure content with care, use keywords wisely, and put the reader first.
  • In a digital workplace, information technology and plain language are tightly entangled, so never stop learning.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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