In the 17th century Latin and French dominated England’s royal court and law courts, while the working people in the streets were demanding plain old English. Plain language remains a democratic demand and a civil right into the 21st century.
Australian Robert Eagleson was touring Canada, when I first heard of plain language. In 1989 he shared his experiences as a professor of English and a consultant to law firms and government with the Canadian plain language movement. Clarity, an international association of lawyers favoring plain legal language, was already promoting clear legal writing from it base in England under the leadership of solicitor Mark Adler.
With Kate Harrison Whiteside, I founded what is now the Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN) in 1993. It is now one for the groups leading the international movement along with Clarity and the Washington.DC-based Center for Plain Language.
Leading from the heart at the Center was Annetta Cheek, a veteran of 25 years with the U.S. government. Annetta lobbied for the US Plain Writing Act that passed in 2010. From the anniversary on October 13, U.S. government staff needed to write plainly in all forms and information concerning public benefits and services.
This major accomplishment has inspired plain language proponents all over the world to renewed efforts. It was this that led Kate Harrison Whiteside and I to create this opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the last 35 years in providing clear understandings to our publics.
So October 13, 2011 was the first International Plain Language Day. With only weeks to organize we had the Internet to organize quickly. Activities took place in several countries.
The Mayor of Vancouver proclaimed October 13 International Plain Language Day for my city. I encourage others to start now to get a proclamation from their own city next year.
Statements of Support
County of Los Angeles: This day recognizes the power of plain language and the incredible impact when millions of employees and agencies make a commitment to ensure that all government communication is clear, concise, and can be easily read and understood. http://qpc.co.la.ca.us/cms1_165693.pdf
Plain Language Association International: The Board of Directors of Plain Language Association INternational enthusiastically supports designating October 13, 2011 as the first International Plain Language Day. We urge everyone to support and join one or more of the plain language activities scheduled for that day in countries around the world.
Bill Lutz, President
Plain Language Association International