In November our Executive Director, Joh Kirby, attended the ICClear|Clarity2014 conference in Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium to present on 'The challenges of communicating the law to the public'. The conference provides an opportunity for clear communication professionals and plain language experts from around the world to showcase their best teaching and learning practices.
Here Joh talks about her highlights.
The biennial Clarity conference always delivers a range of great speakers. This year was no different.
Emily O’Reilly, European Union Ombudsman – Clear language means better government?
Emily O'Reilly is an author and former journalist and broadcaster who became Ireland's first female Ombudsman in 2003. In 2013, she was voted European Ombudsman by the European Parliament.
Emily spoke about the challenges of plain language in the European Union where material is translated into 24 languages for 28 countries. She proposed that the right to good administration includes the right to clear and effective communication between governments and their citizens.
The paper highlighted for me the specific challenges of working in a multilingual environment where many authors are not writing in their first language, material needs to be translated into multiple languages, and a new jargon called ‘Euro English’ complicates the landscape. Lots of food for thought on how we can improve translation in Australia.
You can read Emily’s speech here.
Panel discussion drafting good laws – Creating functional and accessible laws while accommodating the need for uniformity.
In this session legislative drafters working in Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union shared their knowledge about the unique challenges they face. There were three main themes to this session.
- Legislative drafters work within strict guidelines that determine many aspects of the drafting process. Being aware of style guidelines and other directives can be useful in understanding legislation and the process.
- Drafting legislation in multilingual environments has particular challenges when each piece of legislation must have the same meaning in each of the translated languages and be able to be interpreted consistently in courts in different countries.
- No matter how written a piece of legislation the public are unlikely to have the skills to understand it and make the connections to case law and related laws without additional assistance.
Steven Pinker – The sense of style: the thinking persons’ guide to writing in the 21st century.
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. Steven currently holds the position of Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.
Steven talked about different writing styles and compared their advantages and disadvantages. He argued for the development of a more eloquent writing style that presents information in an interesting and engaging way. He also considered a number of common writing rules such as split infinitives and the use of the passive voice and argued why they either should not or not always apply.
A recent article in Scientific America covers many of the themes outlined in his presentation.