New online course in clear communication being developed


At the recent Plain Language Conference, Karine Nicolay announced the development of a fascinating project that she is coordinating in Belgium.   IC Clear is an online course in clear communication – a project of the International Consortium For Clear Communication, funded by the European Union.  It will launch in April 2014 in beta, with the official launch at a plain language conference in Belgium in November 2014.

Successful communication is critical in this ‘information age’. IC Clear ( will develop, pilot and implement a postgraduate course in clear communication to respond to the increase in demand for clear, easy-to-understand information and the lack of well-trained clear communication professionals.

Depending on the outcomes of a survey to industry professionals, the course will consist of an innovative mix of plain language, information design and usability techniques. At the moment, no such specialized, interdisciplinary clear communication training exists. The IC Clear consortium is a partnership of four higher education institutions and a language institute from Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Canada and Estonia.

Increased legislation requiring clear communication is one reason that the IC Clear team successfully used to get sponsors.

In its development, they did a survey of professionals in related fields..   Similarly to Australian speaker Neil James, Nicolay argued that clear language should be an interdisciplinary field, and this made them decide on the breadth of the course content:  it covers writing, usability, design and management skills.

Post-talk I asked Nicolay if the course will be available to all internationally in spite of European funding, and it will.   I also asked about the cost and she said that they don’t yet know, and  are open to suggestions about what people might be willing to pay. Visit or sign up for project updates here.

Here in Canada, Simon Fraser University’s Lifelong Learning is one of the five international major partners in this IC Clear project.


During her presentation, Nicolay recommended a TED talk about plain language – here’s the link and summary:

TED talkThe Right to Understand 

Sandra Fisher-Martins fights “information apartheid” — the barrier created by overly complex language.    Medical, legal, and financial documents should be easy to read, but too often they aren’t. With spot-on (and funny) examples, Sandra Fisher Martins shows how overly complex language separates us from the information we need — and three steps to change that. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

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