[lg policy] Canada: Calgary councillors divided over plain language progress

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Jun 25 15:07:14 UTC 2015

 Calgary councillors divided over plain language progress
  <http://metronews.ca/author/helenipike/>By Helen Pike
<http://metronews.ca/author/helenipike/> Metro
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file photo Coun. Druh Farrell.

Plain and simple does not a council make. After three years of trying to
change convoluted language to comprehensible conversation, an audit on the
city’s plain language policy shows there’s still work to be done.

In 2013, council adopted a plain language policy to combat jargon and
acronym-filled reports causing confusion for the public. The policy
included plans to conduct reviews of city materials and council sessions
every two years to report back on any progress.

“I haven’t noticed a difference, really, maybe in written reports but not
in verbal reports,” Coun. Druh Farrell said Wednesday. “I think we just
need better training. This isn’t an option; this is a policy.”

Farrell added if she gets a confusing email from administration she’s quick
to reply with: “Huh?”

The 2015 plain language audit found documents riddled with insider lingo,
unsettling use of the passive voice, unnecessarily complicated strings of
words, and a lack of pronouns like “we” and “you,” which the report said
could offer a warmer tone.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart took the opposite stance, however, saying she
thinks the city has struck a happy balance between professional language
and comprehensible communication, but doesn’t wish to push it too far to
one side and dumb down documents.

“Where it’s at right now is fine with me,” she said. “I don’t find the
presentations at all difficult to understand.”

The 2015 plain language survey conducted by Ipsos Reid found 88 per cent of
respondents thought the city’s materials were generally easy to understand.

But 26 per cent of respondents said they did come across convoluted
communication from the city.

*Some examples of confusing wording in city communications:*

• The use of insider wording: *“Records that have been migrated from these
ELMS pages will no longer have the associated meeting video available.”*
• Unnecessarily complex wording: Using *“due to the fact that…”*, instead
of using the simpler, *“because.”*
• The use of verbs turned into nouns: *“We held a consultation with
stakeholders”*, instead of using the simpler, *“we consulted stakeholders”.*


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