An alternative approach to plain English
: a case study

  • Kristine Maria Brown

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    This research is a case study of implementation of plain English in one department of a large local government organisation as part of an organisation-wide 'reader-friendly' project. The case study focuses on the process of document change for three of the six documents worked on for the project. The approach to plain English used in the project is an alternative one informed by systemic functional linguistics. In this approach plain English is seen as language and design of documents to be appropriate to context, where context includes purpose, subject matter, relationship between reader and writer, the type of document and the way it is used.

    The case study documents the detail of the process of implementation and by so doing reveals the complexity of constructing written texts and the complexity of doing this within an organisational context. This detail provides evidence that the process of implementing plain English is not the simple one suggested by conventional plain English guidelines, and that there are a range of complexities related to language and design choices for all documents. In so doing it suggests that the approach used is a more valid one than the more conventional plain English approaches, which offer very general advice such as to 'consider your reader' and then target word and sentence level changes without regard to the relationship between context and language choice.

    The detailed documentation also provides evidence that there are complexities related to the process of working on document change with organisation staff, and that while consultation with staff is of crucial importance, the process is not always straightforward.
    Date of AwardSep 1996
    Original languageEnglish

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