1 March 2023
Neil James, Federation Chair
The International Plain Language Federation is a working group formed by three major international organizations for plain language:
- Plain Language Association International (PLAIN)
- Center for Plain Language.
We have been working to strengthen plain language as a profession and to boost the public benefits it brings. This has included a common definition, an ISO standard and the exploration of options for certification and training.
This update outlines some of our recent achievements and what we are working on together in 2023.
A major step forward in 2022 was approval of the Draft ISO standard FDIS 24495-1 Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines.
The draft was approved by national standards bodies in August 2022 and then went through a last round of minor comments. The ISO plain language working group (TC37 WG11) signed off on final changes in December 2022, and it has now entered the final ballot stage for international standards bodies to vote on.
The next stop is publication, which should be mid-year 2023. The standard will provide an authoritative international reference point for plain language. It is a major step forward for our profession.
ISO 24495-1 sets out the general principles and guidelines for plain language. But it is only Part 1 of what the standard will become. Further parts can be added to specify how the standard can apply to sectors, principles or genres. So the work will continue.
The Localization and Implementation Committee has 38 members around the world. It is preparing to inform the world about the forthcoming standard and to support people in as many countries as possible in adapting or endorsing it.
The ISO standard is written in English, but its general principles apply to all languages. However, we expect different countries will adopt it through their national standards bodies and localize it as needed for their one country and language.
The localization committee has also prepared communications such as a press release, fact sheets, social media posts and profile banners to promote the standard when published, with people available to answer queries about adapting or adopting it in their own countries.
Another initiative to emerge from the standards work is the bibliography project. This will support the standard by listing key resources that:
- provide empirical evidence for the guidelines in the standard
- illustrate how authors and organizations can apply a principle or a guideline.
The bibliography will be available through the Federation website. It will be a living document, with new references added continuously.
Training guidelines and resources
Two training committees have also progressed their work during the last 12 months.
The Resource Bank Committee is working on building a library of plain language resources. It has prepared a technical specification and tested several platforms. It selected Slab as the most suitable platform to use, which is available free for non-profit organizations.
Once the resource bank is established, plain language practitioners will be able to contribute their own resources for the benefit of other members. These will include practical materials such as slides and handouts.
The Training Guidelines Committee has been considering guidelines for plain language training and education. It is preparing a survey and research to find out what plain language training is currently being offered, and what kind of guidelines plain language trainers might need. It will then develop recommended training objectives, content and evaluation practices, and make recommendations about training guidelines.
Keep an eye out for this survey in 2023 so you can help to shape future guidelines.
The Certification Committee has over 20 members, divided into 4 subcommittees that are exploring the feasibility of plain language certification for:
A fifth subcommittee is looking at the Systems that we would need to put into place to implement certification.
This work is in an exploration phase focusing on 3 areas:
- developing surveys to assess the demand and interest in certification
- drafting guidelines and tools that might be used as part of certification
- drafting an Issues paper to identify key questions related to the focus, structure, systems, costs and timing of certification.
As certification is a major step for plain language, progress will be cautious and considered. But we expect to make some key initial decisions during 2023.
After two years as the Chair of the Federation, Vera Gergely (Hungary) finished in that role at the end of 2022. We would like to thank them profusely for all their efforts in driving the Federation’s agenda in a crucial phase of our work. As the immediate past Chair, Vera will continue as an advisory member of the Board.
Dr Neil James (Australia) has returned to the role of Chair, having been the founding chair of the (then) International Plain Language Working Group from 2008 to 2015.
As a result, Neil will step down as Chair of the Certification Committee in April 2023, and Board member Sarah Slabbert (South Africa) will take over that role.
The IPLF Board itself will have three new members in 2023: Carlos Valdovinos (Mexico), Angelika Vaasa (Estonia) and Karel Van der Waarde (Belgium), who bring highly relevant experience in plain language, ISO and information design.
We would like to thank retiring Board members Karen Schriver (United States), RoMa Galan (Mexico), Lynda Harris (New Zealand) and Annetta Cheek (United States) who have all contributed so much.
If you would like to know more about the Federation’s activities, please explore this website or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to contribute to these developments in plain language, you can get involved by joining one of the Federation’s member organizations: