14 Introduction to Knowledge Management and Communications | Clear Language Communication

For research communications to have the desired impacts it is important that they be easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to use. Why? Because the audience for research may not have the same academic background or use the same language as the people who produce it. Academic language is well known for being complex, dense and full of field-specific terminology, which makes it difficult for non-experts to understand. As such, clear language is an important component of any knowledge mobilization initiative.

What is Clear Language?

There are many different definitions, but essentially, clear language is about using clear, concise messaging and organization to produce messaging that is appropriate for the audience. Plainlanguage.gov suggests that with clear language, the audience should be able to “Find what they need; understand what they find; and use what they find to meet their needs.”

Clear language is not about over-simplifying your message, removing necessary content, or being patronizing to your audience. Instead, it’s about removing unneeded complexity to increase understanding. As a clear language writer, it is important that you

  1. know your purpose or goals,
  2. understand your reader, and
  3. make communication choices based on your goals and reader.

Why use clear language?

Clear language is important, too, because literacy – defined as the ability to understand and use printed information in daily activities, at home, at work and in the community – is still an issue in Canada. Data from 2003 suggests that only 52% of Canadians over 15 had the minimum level of literacy required to function well at work and in daily living. This means that nearly half of Canadians had low levels of literacy.

The following reading describes why scientists need clear language: Scientists Need Plain Language.


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