Category Archives: Models

Evidence and Plain Language


“Evidence-based” is a term that started in medical fields and has been adopted in many others, especially education. 

It’s the current incarnation of longer-term efforts to integrate extensive bodies research into everyday practice.  It’s similar to previously promoted concepts like  “What Works,” and research-to-practice.

STC has run some virtual research-to-practice conferences, and published a great compilation of research-based heuristics for developing web-based information in the Third Quarter 2000 issue of Technical Communication.

Iva Cheung summarizes a 2013 presentation by Karen Schriver that discusses evidence-based practices in plain language and that addresses these specific topics.  Some of the recommendations differ from earlier ones as technology changes and our base of research goes.

  • Audiences, readers, and users
  • Nominalizations
  • Conditionals
  • Lists
  • Text Density
  • Serif versus sans-serif
  • Layout and design
  • Impressions and opinions
  • Technology
  • Teamwork in writing and design

Check out the summary at:


Lessons for Content Design from the Experience of Online Shoppers

Like most online shoppers, you probably have experienced:

  • Frustration with searches that produce useless results
  • Annoyance by efforts to “upsell” you (that is, get you to buy things you don’t want)
  • Irritation with online checkouts that never seem to go smoothly

Google Analytics produced a series of videos to sensitize online retailers about these issues (and, of course, to market Google Analytics, a service that etailers can use to analyze where customers who do not purchase drop off the site so etailers can analyze and fix the problem that might have driven these prospects away).

Although presented in the context of etailing, the issues that Google raises are not limited to that situation.  Consider these issues:

  • Non-intuitive navigation that prevents users from finding the information they seek
  • Disruption of the online reading and learning experience with endless links to “related” articles (some as outdated as 1990s pop music) and short screens that require constantly loading new pages
  • Online forms for whom whatever information is provided is never sufficient

The truth is, most of us are aware of these issues but, challenged with producing content on ever-compressed schedules, keeping visitors on-site as long as possible, and meeting a variety of political needs (often at odds with user needs), most of us forget about them.

Check out the videos at


Say It Simply

One of my former students shared Robert Krulwich’s recent post, Why Not Say It Simply? How About Very Simply? with me.

It’s the most eloquent and illustrated case for plain language that I’ve seen in a while-and has a great example of a figure of a Saturn 5 rocket with plain-language callouts.

Check it out for yourself at: