Blog Post

Your toolkit for preparing plain language summaries (webinar recording)

By: Marco Campana
August 6, 2021

This webinar walks participants through Evidence for Democracy's toolkit for preparing plain language summaries. Presenters provide an overview of the process of writing in plain language, starting with factors to consider before you begin writing, to the nuts and bolts of writing.

As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, research often involves high level scientific or technical components that are not easily accessible to non-specialist readers. The language of science needs to be plain and simple… but there is a lack of standardized tools or practices to guide public science communication in ways that make science comprehensible and useful to stakeholders.

This is where plain language can help. Evidence for Democracy has created a toolkit for preparing plain language summaries, thanks to a grant from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s (IAAC) Science Policy Division. Their toolkit guides you through the process of writing in plain language, starting with factors to consider before you begin writing, to the nuts and bolts of writing.

In this toolkit, Evidence for Democracy present best practices to help you write in plain language effectively, with a special focus on wording, structure and design features. This includes practical tips, examples and checklists to guide you through the process of preparing a plain language summary, starting with factors to consider before you begin writing, the nuts and bolts of this kind of writing, and what to do before submitting your document.

According to the International Plain Language Foundation, a “communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.” It’s based on the idea that writers should consider the reader’s needs first, and take responsibility to ensure that complex ideas are communicated in clear and accessible language.

To be clear, writing in plain language is more than shortening text or substituting technical terms for simpler words. As the author, you need to be able to explain the same concepts and information found in technical writing, with the same level of accuracy, certainty and precision, but in language that most readers will understand.

And yes, writing entire documents in plain language is not always possible. In situations such as these, a complementary plain language summary can still benefit the reader. This is a summary written for a non-specialist audience to understand relevant information succinctly, and appreciate its broader value, impact and applications.

Read and download the toolkit and checklists:

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