Plain Language Principles
Plain language is the key to effective communication, allowing you to get the most important information to the right people as clearly and as effectively as possible. In this course, you’ll learn the writing standards and practices outlined within the plain language field. You’ll also develop a sensitivity to the issues of literacy and work toward empowering people who may have been marginalized or sidelined by a tangle of “bureaucratese.”
This course will introduce you to the basics of preparing materials that are clear and understandable. Whether you work on public documents, books, articles, forms or web material, the process is the same. Topics include understanding your purpose and your audience, doing research, writing and editing skills for plain language, and plain language design.
The final project for this course is due one week after the course ends.
Instructional hours: 9
Register for a course at any time, with the option to apply to a program later.
- Tue, Jul 12 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Jul 19 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Jul 26 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Sep 13 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Sep 20 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Sep 27 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Nov 22 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Nov 29 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Dec 6 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Jan 10 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Jan 17 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Jan 24 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Mar 28 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Apr 4 (self-paced all week)
- Tue, Apr 11 (self-paced all week)
What you will learn
After completing this course, you’ll be able to do the following:
- Explain how and why written communication can break down
- Define and describe the importance of plain language
- Identify problematic words and phrases, and assess documents for plain language effectiveness
- Develop a process for plain language writing and editing on the job
- Recognize and use design elements that can contribute to plain language, including effective headings and subheadings, point form and lists
- Define the purpose of a document and its audience
- Organize information clearly for readers
- Write clear, direct and short sentences and paragraphs, eliminating unnecessary words and phrases
- Use active verbs and words with clear meaning
How you will learn and be evaluated
- Prepare to spend 6–10 hours per week on coursework
- Expect reading, research, writing and other assignments on a weekly basis
- Plan to access the course at least once every few days to keep up with your work and group assignments
You will be evaluated on:
- Participation in discussions
- 2 assignments (second due 1 week after course ends)
To graduate with the Plain Language Certificate, complete all the required courses with an overall grade of B- (70%).
Course fees do not include textbooks. We recommend you purchase your textbook as soon as you’ve registered. We will provide additional course materials online.
Cutts, Martin. Oxford Guide to Plain English (5th Edition). Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN 978-0198844617. Available as e-book from Red Shelf.
For online courses, you will need a computer with audio and microphone that is connected to the internet. Canvas is the online system that will be used for the course. For more information and online support, visit Online Learning.
English language requirements
To succeed in this course, you will need an advanced level of written and spoken English. If you are unsure whether your English language skills are sufficient, we recommend you complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with the following minimums:
- Overall band score minimum 6.5
- No band below 6.0
- Writing band score minimum 8.0
Please note we can’t refund your registration fees after the course start date if you find your English language skills are not adequate.
If you have questions or concerns about your English language proficiency, we encourage you to contact your local IELTS Test Centre.