Plain Language & Clear Communications Resources—Updated 2021

In 2015, I wrote about re-energizing my interest in and focus on plain language & clear communications. This is still true: I love this work.

For fellow writers and editors, here are some of the resources I find useful. I will add to this list and tweak it regularly. And if you have any suggestions, please contact me with them. Thanks!

© Laura Edlund 2010

The “What to Do and When” Steps to Publication Series—Introduction and Single-Author Self-Publishing

For me, a lot of days are filled with questions and answers about what publishing involves, who does what and why, when to do it and why, what the options are, who has the expertise, what time and money it will take, why should we do this step now and not later, can we jump this step, where we are in the process and what’s next… etc.

So, here are the steps:

  1. define the project
  2. create it
  3. refine it
  4. refine it more
  5. publish it

Yep, it looks simple but like most things, it’s more complex in reality. Below is one long version (and with more to come, which I’ll add over time) for projects. As you can see, the steps might vary somewhat and there might be some circling back to an earlier step or some points to pause and ponder, but there is a logic that is efficient.

See the growing series about process. Each kind of a publication follow the simple process but has its own issues.

Process: Single Author Self-Publishing

  1. Define the project
    • develop the expertise
    • draft a proposal (that answers what the subject is, who the target readers are, why, and how, including specifications such as whether it will be printed traditionally, sold as an e-book, in some combination of printed and e-book and web site, black and white, colour, with or without illustrations, with or without an index, etc., etc.)
    • draft an outline
    • pitch the publication
    • revise the outline
    • develop the budget
    • draft a chapter, etc.
  2. Create it
    • research further
    • draft the manuscript part by part
    • solicit response in cycles from peer reviewers and editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  3. Refine it
    • send to editor as whole and get feedback
    • draft to address gaps and revisions decided upon
    • send to editor for structural and stylistic edit
    • respond to structural and stylistic edit
    • finalize draft with editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  4. Refine it more
    • send to copy editor
    • review copy edit and respond
    • finalize copy edited manuscript to go to designer
    • review design and respond
    • finalize designed/laid-out publication to go to proofreader
    • send to indexer
    • review index
    • final changes to be made for final forms (printed paperback and e-book version)
  5. Publish
    • go to print
    • go live with e-version



© Laura Edlund 2010

Plain Language & Clear Communications Resources

Attending the June 2015 Editing Goes Global conference in Toronto re-energized my interest in and focus on plain language & clear communications. As well, it confirmed for me that using the underlying principles—whether we call the outcome plain language, clear communication, or reader-focused writing and editing—has been a substantial part of my work over the last 25+ years.  (How else could I make a potentially dusty subject both clear and interesting for high school students?) What’s more: I love this work.

For fellow writers and editors, here are some of the resources I find useful. I will add to this list and tweak it regularly. And if you have any suggestions, please contact me with them. Thanks!


© Laura Edlund 2010

Writing for the Reader—Hitting the Target

Every day, the questions arise for writers and editors—What is the right way to write this? the right word? the right structure? Do I like this word or phrasing? Should I change this wording to something more sophisticated or less boring or shorter or longer? Is this right, wrong, great, or OK (or okay or Ok)?

But really the question is whether the writing will work for the intended reader, in the chosen format or on the chosen platform, to meet whatever goals there are for the writing. In other words, context matters. Effective writing (and editing) is not simply a matter of churning out words that adhere to rules but rather making effective, creative, elegant choices for the task at hand. Sometimes the choices are at least somewhat narrowed (for example, American English using the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary 11th edition, Chicago Manual of Style) but more often they aren’t. What will hit the target?

So, to answer that, there are more questions:
Are you writing (or editing) fiction or non-fiction? for the general adult reader in Canada? the United States? Britain? or beyond? for a reader expert in the subject or a layperson? for someone who has low English literacy skills or high? for a reader wanting a rip-snorting great story? for a reader dealing with a crisis? for a reader digging into a manual or web site to learn a skill or answer a question as efficiently as possible? for a possible buyer? for a busy person who will decide in your favour or against? for the reader who will be reading with great attention, savoring each word?

Unless the target reader is exactly like the writer (and how often is that the case?), the writer and editor need to consider carefully what works for the target reader —and then write and edit for that reader. (I can’t stress this enough. It informs—or should inform—all editing and all writing except the earliest drafting.)

What does the reader want? need? expect? understand? respond to? care about? What information do you have about the reader? What terms, phrasing, and structures work and make sense for the reader? What can beta readers or focus groups or user groups or guest readings at the kids’ library or your best friend (if your target is just like your best friend) tell you about what works and what doesn’t? What can you learn from the web site of that target reader? or the most popular news source or key dictionaries or guides? What can some other, successful publications for the target reader tell you about how to write for that reader? For example:

In sum, write (and edit) for the target reader.

© Laura Edlund 2010

Scheduling Writing and Editing Time

Building in procrastination time: Today I’m in-between some stages with different manuscripts so doing some tasks that have been waiting and that I find challenging, nearly painful. So I have turned to my computer, away from my computer, back to my computer, to the bulletin board that needs to be rearranged, to my address book to call my dentist to re-schedule an appointment, back to my computer, and to my little toe that is really very sore.

Finally, it occurred to me exactly how familiar this is. But often I’m on the other side.

When I work with authors who need to do something that they don’t like doing (e.g., respond to an edit, do some more research, double-check some sources), they often need extra time to get started, to procrastinate, to putz about, and to finally settle into it and get it done. They might even take the time to write some navel-gazing little bit of this before doing the hard stuff. They might need some procrastination/putzing time built into the schedule I give them for the task – but not too much, because that will allow them to put off the task too long. So, authors, yes,  I am sympathetic and do understand what you’re going through. And yes, fellow editors, try adding in some putz-about time if you’re in charge of the schedule.

Thank you, my toe is better now.

© Laura Edlund 2010