An international colleague asked us about our two plain language standards:
Is the Write Plain Language Standard the same as the criteria for assessing a document and giving it the WriteMark? Or are the Standard and the WriteMark two different and separate tools?
Here’s how the two Standards came to be, how they relate to each other, and how they’re different.
The 10 elements in the Write Plain Language Standard are a highly condensed version of the 28 elements in the WriteMark Plain Language Standard.
The WriteMark came first, and only documents assessed by our approved assessors can carry it. Several years later, because our clients wanted a standard they could apply themselves, we created a shortened form.
This shorter, easy-to-use standard became Write’s Short Plain English Standard. We’d customise it specially to suit our clients’ specific needs. And clients would often include their standard in their style guide.
Eventually we made the short form (now called the Write Plain Language Standard) freely available under a Creative Commons licence. Anyone can use it to check and improve the quality of their writing.
We often use the Write Plain Language Standard as an audit tool. Our clients want to understand how their writing measures up against widely accepted plain language criteria.
We use the WriteMark criteria when an organisation wants to show that their document has been independently assessed as meeting a very high standard of plain language. Achieving the WriteMark gives them the right to display the WriteMark logo — seen as a quality mark — on their document.
WriteMark Plus is another option we’ve recently developed. It combines the WriteMark’s elements-based assessment with document user-testing. We or another approved testing agency will test the document with readers who match the profile of the target reader.
Many clients now prefer to achieve the WriteMark Plus, which demonstrates an even greater commitment to plain language.