Grad helps province communicate clearly

Photo by Erin Klingmann

Erin Klingmann is so passionate about ensuring government communication materials are clear and accessible that she’s carved out a career for herself doing exactly that. 

As an information designer for the provincial government of British Columbia, Erin provides feedback on the design, readability and accessibility of documents. Plain language skills have been essential in the various communication roles she’s held in government over the past 15 years.  

“Thinking through what our audience needs in a robust way is something I do for anything I write—whether it’s an email or content for our website,” she explains. 

In 2011, Erin was enrolled in a Technical Communication course at SFU where she was first introduced to the concept of plain language: providing clear and accessible communication to the public. The course planted the seed of passion for those principles and inspired her to complete SFU’s Plain Language Certificate a few years later. 

Erin’s current role centres on plain language, and the position only exists because she advocated for the necessity of plain language in government communications. As the term in her previous role as the director of public engagement was drawing to a close, she pitched the creation of an information designer position to her supervisors as a way to focus on plain language after her appointment ended. 

“When you go through a program like the Plain Language Certificate, you are able to articulate these principles to people in the workplace,” she explains. “It was nice to have the credibility of the program backing me up.”

As the B.C. government continues to communicate with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin believes the global health crisis has only emphasized the need for plain language.

“The importance of clear information during a public health emergency shows that plain language matters,” she says. “It’s not just nice to have, it’s essential.”

By Bernice Puzon