Plain Language and Information Mapping: Clarifying the Connection

Interest in plain language is on the rise. Recent sessions of our Writing in Plain Language webinar have been very well attended, and not just by employees at federal agencies trying to implement the Plain Writing Act. Nowadays many attendees are from the private sector.

During the webinars, I’m often asked, “What’s the connection between Information Mapping and plain language?” It’s a good question, and my answer is, “They’re one and the same.”

The Information Mapping method is well known as a content standard that makes information easier for readers to find, understand and use. That’s what the Method is all about—writing in ways that help readers locate information quickly, understand it when they read it, and act on it.

Now let’s look at the definition of plain language on the web site of the Center for Plain Language, an organization widely known for its dedication to promoting the use of clear, understandable communications by government and business. The Center’s definition of Plain Language is “information you can find, understand, and use.” The Center also says,

“Our measure of plain language is behavioral: Can the people who are the audience for the material quickly and easily

• find what they need
• understand what they find
• act appropriately on that understanding?”

I’m not implying an endorsement of the Information Mapping method by the Center for Plain Language, merely pointing out that their definition of plain language closely matches our definition of Information Mapping. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, because as any Mapper will tell you, the objective of Information Mapping is communication in plain language.

Want to find out more about the Plain Language/Information Mapping connection? Take a look at our eBook: Writing in Plain Language

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