Conference Kick-off & Keynote: Karen A. Schriver “Plain Language Gains Momentum”
In her Keynote, Karen A. Schriver highlights findings from her Joenk award-winning article “Plain Language in the US Gains Momentum: 1940–2015.” Despite the growth of interest in plain language communication across many sectors of business and government, knowledge about its development is scattered and in need of synthesis. And without a coherent narrative that tells the story of plain language, it is difficult to understand what led to the gradual acceptance of plain language by industry, government, and the public. Moreover, it is more difficult to identify needed research in plain language without an account of where we have been. Schriver reviewed over 200 publications to explore two questions:
- How did plain language evolve?
- In what ways did plain language advocates change their vision of plain-language activity?
Her work traced plain language and its development in the US over the past 75 years. She found that plain-language practice shifted from a sentence-based activity—focused mainly on the readability of paper documents—to a whole-text-based activity—emphasizing evidence-based principles of writing and visual design for paper, multimedia, and electronic artifacts. She also saw that plain-language practitioners expanded their concerns from how people understand the content—to the usability and accessibility of the content—to whether people trust the content.