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Vol. LXII, No. 13
June 25, 2010
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Plain Language Event Pays Tribute to Communicators

Above:Jeff Howe, contributing editor of Wired magazine and author of the book Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, gave the keynote address at the Plain Language Award ceremony.

Above:Jeff Howe, contributing editor of Wired magazine and author of the book Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, gave the keynote address at the Plain Language Award ceremony.

“Jeff Howe, contributing editor of Wired magazine and author of the book Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, gave the keynote address at the recent Plain Language and Clear Communication award ceremony.

Howe echoed the advice of his father, a scientist who believed that the key to communicating effectively was to “write it simply, but get it right.” He said it is crucial for a writer to appeal to a range of audiences including experts and lay people.

“Plain language really is a sign of respect,” he said. “It means you respect the intelligence of your audience.”

NIH’ers won 83 Plain Language Awards—given for communication products that use clear and concise language—at the ceremony held in Masur Auditorium. One winner, or group, will earn an NIH Director’s Award, to be presented in July.

NCI and NIDDK each received 5 gold awards at the affair, the most by any IC, followed by NIA and NIDA, which earned 4 and 3 golds, respectively. Overall, the NIH Office of the Director earned 9 awards (gold, silver, bronze).

Some of the gold award recipients and their products included NIDDK for its National Diabetes Education Program web site, NLM for MedlinePlus Salud magazine, NIA for its brochure Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide and NCI for Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women.

The Office of Communications and Public Liaison, OD, is the NIH lead in a government-wide Clear Communication Initiative. Part of this initiative is the award ceremony, an annual event that acknowledges superlative employee efforts in producing a range of products including fact sheets, newsletters, periodicals, radio features, videos, web site materials and other items.

Clear and to the Point

Do you want to communicate more clearly? The following guidelines can tell you how.

  • Answer your reader’s questions.
  • Use language appropriate for your reader.
  • Include only necessary details.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Use personal pronouns such as “we” and “you.”
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use tables, lists and other easy-to-understand features.

Delivering an upbeat message via videotape, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins addressed the awardees. “Thanks to all of you for serving as translators of medical research,” he said. “Since the start of his campaign, President Barack Obama has underscored the importance of transparency and clear communications. I support that also.”

John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison, moderated this year’s event. He noted that 57 peer reviewers, most of them from the NIH communications arena, evaluated 320 entries.

NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington provided a welcome. He emphasized the value of presenting straightforward, concise information, especially at an agency such as NIH, where communicating scientific findings to the public has always been key to the agency’s mission.

Next year’s ceremony will broaden to include categories for photography, graphic images and animation, all of which offer the possibility of communicating clearly.—

 

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