Diagram showing the process of writing in plain language: Plan, Structure, Write, Tone, DesignSimplified

The Simplified plain-language academy

This course is for you if plain language is a key part of your profession. This is an advanced course.

We launched the Simplified plain-language academy in 2017 as an advanced eight-month programme in plain language. In 2020, we updated it to include content design and accessibility. The new remote environment has allowed us to open the course to individuals and smaller teams. Until 2020, we ran the academy only in-house.

Who should apply for the Simplified plain-language academy

The course will be relevant to you if you’re building your career as any of these professions:

  • Content designer
  • UX writer
  • Translator and localisation expert
  • Designer (who wants to improve writing skills)
  • Content manager
  • Communications roles
  • Customer success roles
  • Legal services practitioner or lawyer
  • Compliance practitioner

To apply for this course, you must have either:

  • experience in a plain-language or content design role
  • completed a Simplified beginner course in plain language

You must have:

  • at least 12 hours per month available, for eight months
  • at least 20 hours available for a final project – however, you can use any content project you’re working on as part of your final project

Background and theory

In this module, you’ll get foundational knowledge about plain language. This will set the scene for building more advanced skills.

  • Plain language as a professional focus
  • Plain language as a social movement
  • Plain language as a commercial objective
  • Plain language as a compliance requirement
  • Related types of Englishes: Global English, Simplified Technical English, Easy Read
  • Standards for plain language

Collaborating about content in organisations

Here, you’ll learn practical tools and techniques to set up and participate in teams that value plain language.

  • Different ways to set up content teams
  • Content in agile teams
  • Working with professionals in content, UX, design and user research
  • Legal and compliance stakeholders
  • Business stakeholders
  • Present yourself as an expert: personal branding
  • Present your team’s expertise: team branding
  • Content and RACI

Assessing plain language

In this module, you’ll get a solid grounding in different ways to tell whether content is in plain language.

  • Research methods and how to apply them to plain language
  • Run criteria-based assessments
  • Use online readability tests
  • Run a comprehension test
  • Run a user test
  • How to conduct testing remotely

Plain language, content design and accessibility

In this module, you’ll learn how plain-language relates to content strategy and accessibility.

  • Defining accessibility and why it’s important to content design and plain language
  • An introduction to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  • Simple sentence structure: Subject Verb Object
  • Complex grammar points that make a difference to content accessibility (for example, avoiding telegraphing)
  • Word familiarity
  • Terminology consistency
  • Metadata and accessibility
  • Images
  • Formats

Culture transformation and plain language

In this module, you’ll learn about how organisations make plain language sustainable.

  •  Role of plain language in culture change
  • How to embed plain language in an organisation
  • The ‘ready, able and willing’ framework

Content management and content operations: overview

Here, we go ‘under the hood’ and explore how people, processes and technologies are needed in plain-language efforts.

  • Why content operations is essential
  • Why content management is essential
  • How to engage with experts in content management and content operations

Financial writing

This module will advance your skills in writing about money, whether you’re working in financial services or simply have to write about the fees of your product or service.

  • Plan and run a terminology workshop
  • How to write and present definitions online and in print
  • When to replace financial jargon
  • Compliance with Treating Customers Fairly
  • Writing about money – what tone to use

Clear contracts and legal design

This module will advance your skills in writing about legal rights and obligations in documents such as contracts, notices and terms and conditions.

  • What is legal content
  • Plain language and law
  • How to structure a contract
  • How to write contracts in modules
  • Applying information design to contracts
  • How to simplify a disclaimer