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No, we’re not talking about email attachments. We’re talking about source language attachment and how it can complicate the process of implementing Plain Language Writing in the organization.

There are various reasons why someone would push back on terminology that Plain Language and Health Literacy writers use in favor of the original source language. Often, this push back from clients unnecessarily inhibits Health Literacy and Plain Language Writing efforts. Here are 4 source language attachments that we often see when implementing Plain Language Writing:

1. Legal Attachments – Implementing Plain Language

Copy created by your Legal Division creates a strong attachment because it is written by legal experts and often serves an important corporate need. If the copy is about understanding legal rights, those concepts should be written in Plain Language.

Remember: Legal copy should not inhibit readability and understanding.

2. Emotional Attachments – Implementing Plain Language

Pushback may result from an emotional attachment to negative associations with certain terminology. A strong example of this is the word “drug” as opposed to “medication” or “medicine.” There is fear that the term will negatively impact the brand, even though that is the term that many use at the 4th grade level and is in the vernacular of the reader.

Remember: Plain Language uses terminology that is understood and used by the target audience.

3. Information Attachment – Implementing Plain Language

Separating the “nice to know” from the “need to know” is harder than you may think. Writers and Health Experts have a hard time letting go of information that may not benefit the reader as much as they think it would. It may also be information that is based on a medicalized approach and stops the reader from going forward with interest. The organization of information is also affected by what the writer knows is important medical information, but doesn’t always promote the information that drives the behavior.

Remember: Information in Plain Language is only good if it affects behavior. 

4. Design Attachment – Implementing Plain Language

A page from a resource for new parents that highlights implementing plain language in designA polished design may look good, but is not always effective in driving behavior. Plain Language Design concepts do not always promote the design concepts that are embraced by the Marketing Department, but serve a vital need in understanding concepts and behaviors. See our health literacy and Plain Language presentation on what “good” looks like for design.

Remember: Design is one of the tools to affect behavior as well.


Image with quote "The root of suffering is attachment" - The Buddha

Implementing Plain Language in your organization? Be prepared to deal with push-back on the writing from various stakeholders within the organization.

There is nothing wrong with being attached to the source language. It can foster a healthy debate over terminology. If you ask yourself why you have a need for certain terminology and consider alternative ways to address these terms in Plain Language, you will more likely get the result that you need from your healthcare communications.

We write in Plain Language for English copy and provide health literacy research for our clients with ethnically diverse member populations so that they can effectively localize their English content.  We provide healthcare translations in multiple languages as well.  Give us a call if you want your healthcare communications to have positive outcomes.