Catherine Buckie believes that information should be easy to understand and to the point. She knows that people are busy, that they are bombarded with information every second from a variety of platforms. That’s why she embraces the definition of plain language:
A message is in plain language if the audience can do 3 things:
- find the information they need
- understand the information they find
- act on the information they find
Only the audience can determine whether a message is plain.
It was a chance encounter over coffee that introduced Catherine to the concept of plain language. Prior to embarking in the field after that encounter, Catherine had been a journalist and freelance writer with a reputation for “clean” writing. She has been published in Saltscapes Magazine, the now-defunct Halifax Daily News, The Montreal Gazette, and Lawyers Weekly. She is also the author of the travel book The Lobster Kids’ Guide to Exploring Halifax.
Since embracing plain language (or clear communication) as a specialty, Catherine has edited, written, and rewritten materials for almost every department in the Government of Nova Scotia. Products include web pages, brochures, booklets and books. Catherine has provided writing and editing services to the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Spring Loaded Technology, Dalhousie University, and the Atlantic Pilotage Authority among others. Catherine has also given training sessions to the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Safety Services Nova Scotia, and the Government of Nova Scotia.
Catherine has a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree with Honours in Political Science from the University of Ottawa, a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University, and a Master of Education degree in Literacy from Mount Saint Vincent University. During her studies for her graduate degree, Catherine focused on plain language and her studies have influenced the way she handles projects. For each project Catherine takes on, she first establishes who is on the receiving end of the information. She then gathers as much information as she can about the audience so that she can put herself in their shoes and, therefore, create a product that is most likely to be easily read, understood and acted on by the audience.
Catherine is also a firm believer in testing information before publication. She has used economical, yet effective methods that have improved publications because they responded to the audience’s needs.
To find out more about Catherine and her work, visit her website at iwritewell.ca.