Ideas about Plain Language

Subject: Ideas about Plain Language
From: Karen Schriver <ks0e+ -at- ANDREW -dot- CMU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 11:03:02 -0500

Hi there,

I noted a number of folks interested in reading about the plain language
movement. There is a wealth of information available about this topic,
although it is scattered through many literatures. Here are some refs
you might check out. Each has a good bibliography as well.

1. Australian Language and Literacy Council. (1996). Putting it
plainly: Current developments and needs in plain English and accessible
reading materials. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing
Service (available from National Board of Employment, Education, and
Training, Level 2, Northbourne Avenue, Canberra, ACT 2601).

2. Schriver, K. A. (1997). Dynamics in document design: Creating texts
for readers. New York: John Wiley & Sons. (yours truly covers the
history of plain language around the world, particularly in the U.S.,
the U.K., Australia, and Canada--see chapter 2)

3. Steinberg, E. R. (Ed.) (1991). Plain language: Principles and
practice. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.

Also as mentioned in another post by Damien Braniff, the group Clarity
is one you might consider joining. They have a newsletter on plain
language in the legal profession. To join it costs $25. Send email to
Joseph Kimball, Esquire at kimblej -at- mlc -dot- lib -dot- mi -dot- us (or write to him at
Thos. M. Cooley Law School, Box 13038, Lansing, MI 48901-3038). He's a
very nice guy.

And if you're interested in brand new issues in plain language, my
company is now writing a report that will be available
sometime around June of 1998. My colleagues and I have been studying how
a plain language and plain graphics approach can be used in redesigning
the assessment tests given to little kids. As you may know, many
children must take tests in math, science, language arts, and history
that determine whether they are passed on to the next grade. These tests
have significant implications for how children are viewed as learners.
My research shows that many of these tests are poorly written and poorly
visualized/wretchedly designed. We have found that these tests (for 3rd,
5th, and 7th graders in U.S. public schools) may create substantial
comprehension problems that have nothing to do with their understanding
of the subject matter. We find that some kids taking science tests are
REALLY taking tests of language comprehension. We find that
second-language learners, dyslexics, and learning disabled students are
especially hurt by poorly written/designed tests. We are trying to do
something about it. Here is the tentative name of our report:

Schriver, K. A., & Hayes, J. R. (in preparation). Making assessment
tests fair for all students: A plain language and plain graphics
approach to test item development and evaluation. (Research Monograph).
Pittsburgh, PA: KSA Document Design and Research, Inc. (will be
available from KSA Document Design and Research, 33 Potomac St.,
Oakmont, PA 15139, USA).


karen schriver
KSA, Document Design and Research, or

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