Re: certification

Subject: Re: certification
From: michelle -dot- black -at- sickkids -dot- ca
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 14:57:52 -0400

Bill wrote:

"Sure, one can argue that a writer should be certified
in the use of proper grammar, but shouldn't our high
school diplomas cover that? If certification was
offered, it would have to be so multi-tiered that it'd
be pointless anyway, as computer doc is different from
medical doc..." <snip>

Bill, I understand where you're coming from. The association I'm involved with,
PLAIN (Plain Language Association International), has elected NOT to set up a
certification program despite much recent discussion about the possibility.
Among others, one reason for this has been the problem with defining how the
rules for our practice are distinct from the ones people need to use in plain
ol' clear, effective communication.

In my own practice as someone who attends to readability, clarity, design and
accessibility for all kinds of publications and contexts, I find there are some
principles that always apply (such as the importance of defining your audience
and purpose), and others that I use depending on the context. Many plain
language writers I know consider much of what they do to be akin to technical
writing, especially in terms of instructions and policy and procedural writing.
Others see themselves as Information Design professionals, and others are
patient education specialists.

The problem has been defining our practice so that there are enough
commonalities across the board for us to set a baseline criteria. And then we
would have to attend to those differences.

Yet all of us use the same basic principles to do our work. In doing my work, I
borrow from the best of the fields I mentioned, and many, many others. So while
I accept that if a credential was established I would pursue the certification
to protect my business, I would be doing so with serious reservations about the
merits of the process by which my skills were being evaluated.

Michelle Black
Plain Language Writer


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