What do communications people do? And how does plain English differ from clear language, technical communication, information design, usability and business communication?
"What's in a name? The future of plain language in a converging communication profession." Neil James's keynote address at PLAIN 2013 considered the way communication as a discipline has fragmented and yet converges.
He suggested (tentatively!) that certain professional groups such as PLAIN, the Society of Technical Communicators (STC) and the Editors' Association of Canada consider partnering or merging.
I see the situation rather differently.
Plain language is a fundamental tool for managers and consultants and professionals in almost any field.
- That includes people working in web design, usability, accessibility, ICT, HR, online marketing and (blazingly obvious) government.
- It includes lawyers, accountants, teachers, professors, architects, engineers, software developers, business people, exporters, and NGOs. I need to stop here, but the list could be ten times as long.
- New graduates all need basic business communication skills to prepare them for the real world of work.
All these groups use plain language skills in their everyday work. Sometimes they need the help of outside or inhouse specialists. Specialists may be lodged in corporate communications, marketing, information management, web development, intranet management or HR.
Communication skills are ubiquitous. Out of the cage. Universally required.
When the workplace went digital, we had to adapt to a new environment. "C" for communication is now embedded between information and technology in the vast field of "ICT".
Communication today is a team sport involving many disciplines. Specialists need additional skills if they are to be a force in the world.
That's why I feel so excited about a new EU online qualification in plain language, IC Clear. Karine Nicolai explained that this course will feature not only clear writing but also usability testing, information design and project management.
I am so happy to see these skills bundled together: they add up to a highly employable graduate. Also, they place plain language in a realistic professional setting.
Photo by Rachel McAlpine: Essential Vancouver: cedars, water, islands. Feel free to use and share.