Published on February 3, 2016

Documentation for the general public from government entities, as well as medical, financial, and legal service providers, is often difficult for consumers to understand and follow. Such poorly prepared documents diminish consumers’ abilities to make informed decisions about their health, rights, and finances. These documents create problems for both the users and producers of the documents. With the ease of accessing documents online, organizations face increasing pressure to create effective content appropriate for broad audiences.

Plain language offers an approach to language and design for producing easily accessible and readable public documents. Among other suggestions, plain-language advocates suggest reducing jargon, writing shorter sentences, and providing clear section headings. However, the plain-language movement faces two potential challenges to wider acceptance. First, many professional communicators may not be familiar with the range of guidelines, with relevant federal and national regulations, or with specific details of the approach. Second, the guidelines themselves are often open to interpretation and in some ways oversimplify complexities of communication with multiple audiences and across different media.

Still, grassroots advocates around the world support plain language. Organizations such as Clarity International, the Center for Plain Language, Plain Language Association International, and the Plain Language Action and Information Network provide training, publications, and networking opportunities. Practitioners use plain language in a range of areas such as government, law, finance, medicine, and health literacy. In recent years in the United States, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 and Executive Order 13263 in 2011, requiring clear communication in plain writing from U.S. government agencies. Scholars in technical and professional communication have shown a renewed interest in the topic with recent publications on plain language. See Willerton (2015); Ross (2015); Jones, McDavid, Derthick, Dowell, & Spryidakis (2012); Greer (2012); and Byrn (2008).

In this special issue, the guest editors – Natalia Matveeva (University of Houston-Downtown), Michelle Moosally (University of Houston-Downtown), and Russell Willerton (Boise State University) – invite article proposals that explore the following questions:

  • How do we apply plain-language guidelines in various writing genres for varying audiences and situations?
  • What are some legal and ethical implications associated with the use of plain language?
  • What is the status of scholarship on plain language in technical and professional communication?
  • What are successful and unsuccessful cases of the use of plain-language guidelines in real documents and contexts?
  • What is the status of the plain-language movement around the globe? How do different countries respond to the needs of their citizens for clear information?
  • How do plain-language strategies vary from country to country?
  • How can plain-language legislation around the globe affect communication practices beyond government communications?
  • Is plain language effective in communities and organizations that are strongly bilingual?
  • What benefits and challenges arise when engineering professionals use plain language in their work? How do controlled languages, such as Simplified Technical English, support goals for plain language?
  • What are the connections between the use of plain language and web writing?
  • What are effective strategies for teaching plain language?

Types of Projects

The types of research projects accepted for this special issue include but are not limited to

  • research reports
  • integrative literature reviews
  • case studies
  • tutorials
  • teaching cases

For further details, please consult project formats supported by the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication at

Submission Process

All submissions go through the following review process:

  1. Submit a two-page abstract of your proposed article to the guest editors by the specified deadline (see the schedule below). The editors will select abstracts and invite the authors to submit their complete manuscripts.
  2. Complete manuscripts will be peer reviewed. Based on the outcomes of that review, guest editors will then select articles for publication in the special issue.

Submission Requirements

Submit your abstract electronically to as a Microsoft Word file. In the file name, list your last name(s). The abstracts should be no more than two (2) pages long, single-spaced, with headings and clearly marked paragraphs. At the top of the page, specify your full name, affiliations, email address, and project title.

IMPORTANT: If you plan to present the results of a study involving human research subjects or will use examples from corporate or government communications, please obtain all approvals and permissions for publishing your results from your institution, company, and/or agency before you submit your abstract for review. Your abstract should mention your receipt of appropriate permissions.

Timeline for Submissions

Email us if you’re interested in the project As soon as possible!
Abstract submission deadline June 1, 2016
Notification of authors: July 1, 2016. Those whose abstracts are accepted will be invited to submit a complete article.
Submission of complete articles December 22, 2016
Review back to authors March 1, 2017
Revised and resubmitted articles submitted for second review May 1, 2017
Final and complete articles submitted August 1, 2017
Special issue published December 2017

If you have questions about the special issue, please contact,, and/or .