Plain Language trends

Feb 7, 2022 | Plain Language Institute

Positioning Plain Language at a strategic level

Written by Sarah Slabbert

In Plain Language

Over the next few months, we will be sharing with you TEN trends as they were captured in presentations at the international Access for All 2020 and 2021 Plain Language (PL) conferences, and the 2019 PLAIN conference. For each trend, we indicate also why this is important for your organisation’s PL journey.


Trend 1: Positioning Plain Language at a strategic level

Whereas PL practitioners in the past tended to work on individual pieces of communication, the trend is to align PL with business goals and integrate it into the organisation’s business strategy.

Positioning PL at a strategic level follows from the insight that customer engagement is a strategic action (Baldrige Business Excellence Model). Research about organisations implementing PL found that a strategic approach to PL is a critical success factor to achieve a sustainable result (Neil James, PLAIN 2019).

The literature uses the terms ‘’PL strategy’’ and ‘’content strategy’’ to refer to this trend.


Plain Language strategy

The Plain Language Institute has done ground-breaking work in this field. Nadja did a Masters dissertation on the topic, titled ‘’Implementing Plain Language as a strategic priority in organisations’’. At the 2019 PLAIN conference in Oslo, she delivered a paper on her framework for a PL strategy. She was subsequently invited to write an article for the PLAIN e-journal.

Content strategy

See Halverson’s definition in the side box. Content relates to any body of content, no matter how big or small. A content strategy is usually driven by organisations’ goals and their users’ needs. (Redish, Access for All 2021).

‘’Content design’’ and ‘’content ecosystem maps’’ are terms associated with content strategy. ‘’Content design’’ refers to content creation and ‘’a content ecosystem map’’ is a high-level picture of an organisation’s products, brands, content types, teams, technologies, and channels.


What is the difference between a content strategy and a PL strategy?

A PL strategy is a content strategy with a specific objective. It is a strategy to create, deliver and govern content that users find easy to search or navigate, easy to understand and easy to use.

Online course

Implementing Plain Language as a strategic priority

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How is this trend relevant for your organisation?

  • If content that users find easy to search or navigate, easy to understand and easy to use, is the strategic objective, your organisation will need a PL strategy.
  • Content design and a content ecosystem map are useful terms and concepts within a PL strategy.


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