How to Advocate for Plain Language

Literacy practitioners know the importance of plain language but how do you convince others?

In February 2024, Decoda hosted the webinar Convince me to communicate in plain language with Debbie Denault, where she shared when, where and how to formally and informally advocate clear language and design.

Debbie is a former Literacy Outreach Coordinator and Adult Volunteer Tutor Programs Coordinator, who now devotes her literacy enthusiasm to Clear Language and Design (or Plain Language) advocacy, training and rewriting.

What is plain language and why is it needed?

The International Plain Language Federation says a communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily:

  • find what they need,
  • understand what they find, and
  • use that information.

Plain language advocate Deborah Bosley, in her TEDxCharlotte Demand to understand: How Plain Language Makes Life Simpler says:

  • People have the right to understand information that affects their lives.
  • When we don’t understand information, we may feel anxious, angry or confused.
  • People read with their emotions and then we use logic.

Plain language can and should be used in promotional materials, content for programs, reports, and communication with colleagues, partners, communities, and funders.

What is plain language advocacy?

Advocacy is showing public support for an idea, plan or way of doing something. Debbie says we can advocate for plain language formally and informally.

You might:

  • Have conversations with your networks, committees, or teams and provide training.
  • Find spontaneous opportunities, like when you see a form with small print and little white space, you could ask, “Would you be willing to make this easier to read and fill out?”
  • Offer to rewrite a document in plain language.
  • Arrange meetings with local government and organizations to introduce plain language.

Advocacy in 5 easy steps

Start with research and preparation using the Advocacy in 5 easy steps from Canadian Cardiovascular Society to influence organizations or communities:

Step 1. Articulate your ask.

Step 2. Gather supporting evidence.

Step 3. Know your audience

Step 4. Choose your channel(s) (email, social media, meetings, presentations)

Step 5. Don’t give up!

For more information on plain language advocacy, training and rewriting, contact Debbie at

Plain language training in April 2024

Do you want to learn more about Plain Language?

Decoda offers a full day of training on April 17, 2024, in Richmond, BC: Plain Language: What Is It and Why Do We Need It? – with Margaret Sutherland

We want people to access, understand and use the information we share.

In this introductory session, explore plain language and how we can apply the principles of plain language to make our message clear. This will include:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Identifying the purpose of writing
  • Writing for your reader
  • Using clear layout and design
  • Editing and testing your work

Participants are encouraged to bring samples of their work to workshop and share. They will leave with practical tips and tools to apply and use when they create promotional materials, develop content for programs, write reports, and communicate with colleagues, partners, communities, and funders.

$175 for the day includes breakfast, lunch and workshop from 9 am – 3:30 pm.



Related Blog Posts

BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English

Are you looking for free online reading resources for adults working on their reading skills? You can find great, made-in-BC content in the BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English series. …

Back to Basics: Making Predictions

Welcome to our Back to Basics series! This week we are discussing making predictions.

Literacy Podcasts

Read about the growing number podcasts on literacy topics.