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Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Reports/Movement Strategy Playbook/Simplify language

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Simplify language
East African Strategy Summit 2019 in Kampala, Wikimedia 2030, Movement Strategy

Use simpler communication and messages designed for translation. There’s a tension between capturing nuance and complexity on the one hand, versus communicating in ways that translate well across languages, contexts and culture. Keep it simple.

  • “Actively strive to use language in documents, on-wiki-pages and mailings that is direct, comprehensible and translatable.”
  • “The language was too complex and technical. It was hard to translate.”
  • “It felt like the only way to participate was if you could speak English. Full stop.”
  • “Make all the sentences of the recommendation easier to read in all the languages. The translated document on Meta is not clear enough to allow other Wikipedians and Wikimedians to read in their mother tongue.”
  • “The recommendations can be complex, but the communication could have been simpler.”
  • “Language was not adjusted to the level of English that's acceptable for the communities. Editors understand neither the need for corporate jargon nor the need of our focus on the structures.”

Use visual communication to increase accessibility[edit]

Contemporary communication is increasingly visual. It employs other media beyond just “walls of text.” This can be particularly useful for breaking down complex processes, or driving home key points.

  • “Audio and video can really help with accessibility, especially if English is not your first language. Consider other media, like videos and podcasts. Especially for reaching emerging communities.”
  • “Visuals were such a useful storytelling tool. Images, timelines, etc. We made great visuals but often didn't get enough use out of them, or translate them.”
East African Strategy Summit 2019 in Kampala, Wikimedia 2030, Movement Strategy

Publish summaries. Stress what’s relevant for specific audiences.[edit]

Lengthy documents need to be summarized and framed in ways that lead with what’s most relevant for specific audiences.

  • “The documents were often very long. Many people aren’t keen on reading really long text. Summaries and infographics help, so that they can more easily understand.”
  • “Much of what we were trying to communicate was really complex (what is ‘structural change?’). We sometimes focused too much on what we needed to communicate and not what our audience needs to know (eg, ‘how does all of this affect me?’)”
  • “There are lessons around framing. For example, not a lot of people wanted to participate in a topic like ‘Revenue Streams.’ But what if we had just called it ‘Money?’ Or: ‘Who gets the money?’"
  • “We should have been more specific in our approach. We targeted the movement ‘as a whole,’ and did not do a lot of segmenting of our audience in our messaging.”
  • “It’s hard to please Wikimedians. You need to be clear, consistent, and transparent.”
  • “We changed the tone of our messaging after Wikimania 2019. We started steering away from the ‘aspirational’ messaging to a more simplified, straightforward tone. It felt like this resonated a bit more, at least on wikimedia-l. The tone was no longer so top down."

Tools and examples for simplifying language[edit]

Do you have tools, methods or ideas that you, your community or organization use for this? Add them to this section for others to see.