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Linguistic Simplification

1 April 2018

Linguistic simplification refers to text adaptation for cognitively challenged people or those that possess basic cognitive abilities. This process involves writing texts in a simply comprehensible manner.

 Its principles include: focused data, plain (and correct) everyday language, consistent use of terms and tenses (plural/singular, past/present, etc.), explicit message leaving no room for interpretation, etc.

A few days ago, it was reported that the disability pension will rise; the rise will be retroactively granted from January. I immediately remembered a course on content editing & functional writing I instructed at a large organization. The meaning of the word "retroactively" was discussed among other terms, and several answers were given. Some interpreted the term as referring to past activities ("retro") while others understood it to be a future action. This organization handles great sums of money. Another noteworthy "fun fact": each interpreter was positive they were correct.


What does this have to do with linguistic simplification, a term from the field of accessibility?

 Evidently, linguistic simplification is required when writing in an organization. A great portion of organizational activity is based on texts and is aimed at large, diverse groups of workers that probably all possess high cognitive skills: work procedures, policies, customer service, etc.

The aforementioned simplification principles must be applied in organizational settings as well.

What does this require?

A bit more time and a little more thought invested before and during the writing process.

What can we gain from linguistic simplification?

  • We ensure our workers understand the text and can operate correctly

  • Texts will be helpful utilities rather than confusing nuisances

  • Less mistakes

  • Decrease in time invested in each task

Writing simple rather than simply writing is a task far from simple, but it is simply essential.

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