The Role of Readers in Drafting Information and Forms for Users of Health-Related Services: Reconciling Post-Structuralist Theory and 'Plain Language' Approaches
A 'plain English' approach to writing tends to focus on the text itself. It is concerned mainly with drafting documents for public use, and offers a practical way to communicate specialised information to readers who are not specialists in the subject being written about. Plain English proponents claim they are guided in their writing lexically, syntactically and in genre choices by the audience for whom their texts are intended. Because of the public nature of the documents being drafted, this audience is usually very diverse. Consequently, the drafting emphasis tends to be on simple structures and simple words, believed to be accessible to the majority of readers. In this paper, a critical exploration of the role of readers in creating meaning through mediating written texts provides an alternative theoretical framework within which to explain and challenge the effectiveness of a 'plain language' approach to communication. The claims made in the paper have significant implications for the ways in which members of ethical review committees, for example, review written information for potential participants in medical research projects with the intention of safeguarding the right to consent to involvement in research on an informed basis.
Keywords: Plain English, Post-Structuralism, Semiotics, Bioethics, Ethics Committees, Drafting
Dr Rosemary De Luca
Senior Lecturer, Department of Arts and Language Education, University of Waikato