IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Kai Jensen

Kai Jensen
Dr Kai Jensen works with universities and other organisations to improve their policies and help their staff adopt plain English, reader-centred writing habits. Kai started his consultancy and editing business PolicyTrain in 2017, after 25 years working as a manager in five Australasian tertiary education institutions. Since 2006 he has led professional development activities for policy managers for the Association for Tertiary Education Management, and is lead author of ATEM’s guide to good practice in policy work, Policy without (much) pain. Kai has also worked as a journalist and proofreader; his doctorate was in English literature; and he is a published poet.

For more information about Kai and his business see www.policytrain.com.au

Edging towards the heart of universities' writing problem

People who work in universities in general complain of their ponderous, over-formal writing culture, and say they want plain English in non-academic communications with staff and students. In practice, however, university staff resist applying plain English principles. Universities' style manuals (which mandate plain English and stylistic simplicity) are ignored. The passive voice, ponderous word choices, roundabout phrasing, redundancies, jargon, stale language, excessive punctuation and excessive capitalisation prevail. This in turn infects students with poor writing habits, and graduates carry the infection out to other businesses, organisations and professional practice.

After working from the edges for three years to improve universities' writing habits, I propose attacking the heart of the problem with a systematic, sector-wide intervention. Improving universities' writing will have many benefits, increasing efficiency, reducing stress for staff and students, aiding inclusiveness and making universities more attractive to international students.
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Online, 28 to 30 June 2021
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