Style and technical terminology

What about nonfiction aimed at children? Are textbook publishers going to enforce this?

The standard provides information on how to communicate effectively with intended readers. It might be useful for nonfiction aimed at children. Textbook publishers may or may not consider using the standard. It’s a voluntary standard, so using it or not would be a business decision for each publishing company to make.

Should these standards be used for all writing styles/genres?

The standard can be used for any document that the document’s author wants the document’s readers to understand. But it’s fair to say that someone writing an insurance policy or a standard letter from a government agency is more likely to benefit from using the standard than someone writing a novel or a love letter.

If I start to apply these standards, will my writing lose its style?

The standard does not address writing style issues, except for well known plain language techniques such as addressing readers directly and using words that the audience is familiar with.  

If you are already writing in plain language, then your current writing style will reflect these techniques. If you are not writing in plain language but you want to, then you will likely need to adjust your style as you learn and apply plain language techniques. This would be the case regardless of where you got those techniques from (for example, a colleague, the standard, books or the research the standard and the books are based on).

We've always used specific terminology, our own jargon. Can we keep any of it?

The standard doesn’t say that you shouldn’t use jargon. It says to use words that your audience is familiar with and will understand. If you are writing to colleagues and the jargon is familiar to them, then the jargon is plain language.

 The guidance in the standard includes many plain language practices that are not language related, such as focusing on what readers need to know, using a logical sequence, and using techniques to organize and design a document. These practices are independent of a particular group’s legitimate jargon.

How does the standard fit in with the plain language principles in our style guide?

The new ISO standard represents international best practice in plain language, having been developed by experts from around the world. While style guides do not usually have any overall principles contrary to those in the ISO standard, they can reflect an out-of-date and narrow view of what plain language means. For example, they often have plain language advice that does not match current research, advice and practice on plain language. These areas are much easier to see now that the ISO plain language standard has been drafted.

You can apply the ISO standard to comply with plain language principles but continue to use your style guide for other style questions.

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