Currently, Gwen’s focus is on 5 Keys to Building a Clear & Usable Website, a book that curates the information on the web into an easy-to-access guide. It draws on both her years as a facilitator, and thirty years working in the field of plain language.
Back in the 1980s when the country was exploring plain language, the Canadian Legal Information Centre, Toronto, hired Gwen as their plain language co-ordinator. Her credentials came from degrees in English and journalism, and working in literacy, sleeves rolled up, for vibrant community programs in Ottawa and Toronto. In 1990 she returned to Halifax as a plain language consultant. For a couple of years, she also worked with the Literacy Section of the Department of Education to demonstrate how plain language created access to information and services, and to build a library of resources.
When the Youth Criminal Justice Act was declared, Gwen headed a small team to create a pocket guide that would give front-line workers quick and accurate access to the new act. It became a model across Canada and abroad, and when the act was revised in 2012/13, she worked with a legal expert involved in writing the act to update the pocket guide. Testing is an important part of plain language, and when they tested the guide they discovered that judges serving in youth court kept a copy of it with them in court, for reference. The new guide has a section in it for judges.
Gwen’s work since 1990 has served a wide cross-section of clients and audiences. Some of the projects she works on are web sites. One site guides professional associations in Nova Scotia in how to comply with the Clear Registration Practices Act.
Formally, she holds a Bachelor of Journalism from King's College, Halifax; a teaching certificate for Secondary School from Lakehead University; and a B.A., English (Honours) from Sir Wilfrid Laurier University.
About 5 Keys to Building a Clear and Usable Website
The book begins with a section on planning. “Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.” Sir John Harvey, 1863-1944 British Actor-Manager
The book is practical, with check lists, before-and-after examples, steps to follow, lots of resources – and it is short and straightforward. It gives you a place to start the process, and saves you time and money.
The five keys: planning, writing, organizing, designing, and testing your site – the basics.
The following publications and websites give you an idea of Gwen’s range of work.
Fair Registration Practices Act Review Office
Labour and Advanced Education Nova Scotia
Public Trustee of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Department of Justice
Nova Scotia Pocket Guide to the Youth Criminal Justice Act 2013
Nova Scotia Department of Justice
Nova Scotia Environment Citizens’ Guides
Nova Scotia Environment
Off-highway Vehicles Riders Handbook and Off-highway Vehicles Rules and Regulations – co-writer
Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection
Labour Standards Code Fact Sheets – writer and plain language editor
Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Workforce Development
Guide to ESIA, Nova Scotia’s Employment Support and Income Assistance Program – plain language editor
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
Kid’s Health and the Environment: Tool Kit – co-researcher and writer
Cape Breton District and Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authorities