The Office of the Auditor General in Alberta gives politicians and senior managers independent recommendations on ways the government can improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
Using the Annual Report as a Plain Language Focus
The report is the work of many auditors melded into one coherent report. One goal was to reduce the rewriting time needed to clearly tell people what the office has done during the past year, including its recommendations to various parts of the government.
The annual report offers a tangible product to measure success. The main audience is the members of the Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee, made up of legislative assembly members (MLAs). The office got positive feedback from MLAs about both the content and the structure of the plain language annual report.
The annual report editor and the communications coordinator founded a group to make the annual report clearer and reduce its length to fewer than 300 pages. They did not use the term plain language because they did not want to get into debates. The group sold their “plain plan” by encouraging concise and clear communication. The core group stayed away from resisters and recognized that change takes time.
The plain language work takes 25 percent of the communications coordinator’s time. The annual report committee spent approximately 350 hours on its plain language work. This is equal to the time spent doing a small audit.
The staff of 130 people received plain language writing training in two-day workshops. This training continues to be part of the orientation for new employees. Training costs are covered within existing professional development funds. The Auditor General’s office considers its investment in training as a cost necessary to persuade people to change the way they do business. Clear communication is seen as essential for doing its work.
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