Plain Language – breaking down communication barriers

Plain Language – breaking down communication barriers


Plain language communication means communicating in a way that is easily understood by the intended audience. Entire industries have evolved using complex terminology, technical concepts, and jargon that can be impenetrable to outsiders, including their customers. In response, a plain language movement has gained momentum in recent decades. The aim of this is to improve the relationship of industries and institutions with their external stakeholders through more effective and transparent communication. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movement started with the legal system and then expanded to government institutions and other industries.

The life sciences industry is, by its nature, awash with complex language. This is challenging for patients, the industry’s primary consumer, to understand, and does little to improve trust in the industry. Recently, this lack of trust has undoubtedly contributed to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The consequences of a lack of trust caused by poor communication can be significant:

Hesitancy in using vaccines and drug products
Low treatment compliance leading to greater disease burden
Poor recruitment and high dropout in clinical trials
Low engagement during clinical trials

Demand from patients and the public has brought the plain language movement to the doors of the life sciences industry. Great strides are now being taken by pharmaceutical companies and the regulators to bring plain language communication into more regular use.

The global attention that development of the COVID-19 vaccines received highlights the public’s demand for more transparency in clinical research.

The Move to Plain Language Spans Industries

Consumer advocacy and demand will drive the expansion of plain language communication across specialised industries. Companies should approach this as an opportunity to communicate with their consumers more effectively. Those that work proactively to improve their communication strategies will build more trust and will likely gain more market share.

Although the concept of plain language communication is easy to understand, ironically, the act of writing in plain language is a complex task. It requires careful thought and a rare skill set combining the ability to understand technical language with strong communication skills, and an acumen for design and aesthetics. Medical writers who have been trained to write in complex, highly technical language for regulatory purposes may not be the best authors for plain language communications. At the same time, professionals who understand plain language principles may not sufficiently understand scientific concepts to be able to convey them in plain language. What sets an effective plain language writer apart is the combination of these skillsets. With the increase in demand, we are seeing a small, yet growing band of skilled plain language writers working towards the goal of effective communication with patients and the public.

Effective plain language communication requires expertise on many different levels

Our experts at Krystelis have been leading plain language projects within life sciences and health care since 2015. This includes advisory support, process development, training, and writing plain language documents.

Reach out to us at [email protected] to discuss your questions or requirements around plain language services