Please – no more jargon, small print or gobbledygook!

September 19, 2014

Plain English training

To mark the start of National Adult Literacy Awareness Week today we are announcing details of our new petition that asks the Government to provide information in plain English.

Press release

Embargo: 11 am Monday 22 September

New petition asks the Government to provide information in plain English.

Details of a new petition calling for plain English to be used by Government will be launched in Dublin today, Monday 22 September.

The petition asks the Taoiseach to ensure that all public information produced by Government and its agencies is written in plain English.

Plain English is a style of writing and presenting information that helps the reader to understand it the first time they read it. It involves using short, clear sentences and everyday words. It does not use small print or unnecessary jargon.

This petition is being organised by The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA).

Recent research (Please see below) commissioned by NALA found that almost 95% of Irish adults are in favour of plain English. About half of them (48%) find official documents, including information from the Government difficult to understand. They also find jargon, terms and conditions, and financial information challenging.

NALA want people to sign the petition to help them to raise this important issue with the Government and promote the use of plain English in Government information to the public.

Speaking before the launch, Director, Inez Bailey, stated: “Both citizens and governments benefit from clear information, written in plain English. Citizens are more likely to understand their rights and governments are more likely to make better use of their resources.”

“That’s why we recommend that all public information produced by Government and its agencies is written in plain English,” she continued. “After all, plain English encourages individuals to engage with public services and make informed decisions when doing so. Using plain English can also save the public sector time, money and possible frustration by having to take repeated requests for information.”

NALA’s petition calls for public information such as letters, forms and information leaflets to be written in plain English. This means:

·         using everyday words where possible;

·         explaining specialised words if they can’t be avoided;

·         keeping sentences to about 15 to 20 words; and

·         using a readable font type and size.

NALA’s petition is welcomed by the National Consumer Agency (NCA). The NCA is happy to support initiatives, like this, that encourage other organisations to write and present their information more clearly to consumers.

Speaking before the launch, Chief Executive of the NCA, Karen O’Leary, said:

“Using plain English has helped us to provide consumers with clear and accessible information. Our website, was developed using plain English principles. It has become a trusted source of information and a ‘go to’ place for consumers seeking information. Providing clear information also makes good business sense as it increases efficiency and value for money.”

People can sign the petition online at this link.

The launch is at 1 pm in the Winter Room, Royal College of Physicians, 6 Kildare Street. Dublin 2. Speakers include: Peter Tyndall, Ombudsman, Karen O’Leary, National Consumer Agency and Inez Bailey, National Adult Literacy Agency.

For media queries please contact:

Clare McNally, NALA, 01 412 7909 / 087 648 6292.


About the National Adult Literacy Agency

The National Adult Literacy Agency is a charity committed to making sure people with literacy difficulties can fully take part in society. According to the last international survey, one in six Irish adults has problems reading and writing.

With this in mind, a lot of NALA’s work involves developing policies and practices that reduce literacy-related barriers to accessing information. Plain English helps reduce literacy-related barriers as it presents information that helps someone understand it the first time they read it.






Notes on research:

The research was conducted by Empathy Research on behalf of the National Adult Literacy Agency.  There were a total of 1,097 participants in the survey. The survey was nationally representative of 18+ year olds living in the Republic of Ireland.

1.    Have you heard of plain English?

Over 50% had heard of plain English.

2.    Do you think Irish businesses and organisations should provide information in plain English?

Almost 95% of Irish adults are in favour of organisations providing information in Plain English

3.    Do you know that some organisations are obliged to provide their information in plain English?

25% of people know that plain English is a requirement for some organisations.

4.    Do you ever find information on official documents difficult to understand?

48% of people tend to find official documentation difficult to understand.

5.    If yes, please specify what types of information you find most difficult to understand.

·         53% stated technical jargon, legal clauses, and terms and conditions.

·         35% stated public service and Government information

·         12% stated financial information

6.    Can you name businesses or organisations that you would like to see use plain English?

·         31% couldn’t name any business or organisation

·         29% named Government

·         16% named financial organisations

·         24% named others (legal, service, medical)


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