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The other day I came across a link to this gem of a poster. It was linked from a well-known blog I follow called The Happiness Project, which mentioned the 1992 book of the same name (which I can’t wait to get my hands on as well!).
I love its simplicity and universal appeal — whether you’re a non-, weak, online, sometime, or voracious reader, you have these rights and likely recognize some of these behaviours in yourself.
And for those of us who make our living by communicating, I see this as a simple-yet-powerful communication tool: a Ten Commandments of Truths We Must Always Remember before we prepare something that we want (or need) people to read.
Through SimplyRead, my plain-language writing business, I continue to work with organizations that are required to use plain language in their communications because their industry or customers are insisting on it.
Here are just a few examples:
- The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 sets out guidelines for Ontario businesses and organizations to help them identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. The first standard related to Customer Service became law in 2008. Now, the standards for creating, providing and receiving accessible information and communications is being streamlined as it aims toward becoming law later this year.
- As more and more consumers begin demanding clearer financial information in the face of the current economic climate, the Financial Consumers Agency of Canada has released guidelines for banks and other financial services organizations to follow when they prepare disclosure notices for their customers.
- Responding to feedback from its customers, one of our business clients is implementing plain language communications across its organization: establishing templates and training support to help employees recognize and use clear writing techniques in their customer communications.
Watch this space over the next few weeks for a more personal look at why financial literacy has evolved into a subject that’s on the tongues of more people in the financial and education arenas.
If I ever manage to blog more than a few times a month, I figure I have to see how it’s really done by reading what other quite successful bloggers have put out.
Two blogs have stood out and become regular visits – probably because they also help me improve in two quite important arenas of life: stretching our dollars, and surviving gracefully as a parent.
The first is Squawkfox, a very engaging read about ways to keep the ends meeting, even if we face tougher times (and heck, those with lots of extra – does anyone actually still *know* many people like that?! – will stand a better chance of keeping what they have if they live by this advice.)
Deemed as the place ‘ Where frugal living is sexy, delicious and fun!,’ this blog lives up to its name. And because she’s writing as a consumer living in Canada (Kerry K Taylor lives in Vernon, B.C.), she is writing from a similar consumer experience to mine – making the advice terribly relevant. Plus, she lives up to the phrugal philosophy by giving away several resources for free. In other words – financial literacy in action.
I have a penchant for re-using things, finding really good deals on stuff I need – and a serious hate-on for feeling like corporations are getting the better of me. So I just love reading what the Squawkfox has to say. And of course, she makes no bones about saying what’s on her mind. A woman after my own heart, but who wants to help me put more money in my wallet.
The Happiest Mom
One thing you can very often say of blogs about parenting is that they are very honest, often to the point of being in-your-face. This to me has several merits to me. Chief among them is that many other parents who struggle with the job – but who don’t naturally express ourselves this way in writing – will find solace that others face much of the same angst about it that they do. Entire new communities and friendships are being built among moms who blog about their experiences.
So from a clarity perspective, there’s no issue. And there is a Mom Blog out there to suit every personality. But so far, I’m digging this one the most.
The Happiest Mom is actually Meagan Francis, mom herself to five kids, blogger and columnist in parenting magazines and several websites. What I like so much about her blog is not what you might expect, given its title: she doesn’t try to sugarcoat the parenting experience and portray herself as the accomplished Uber-Mom (many of us know a few of those already). In fact, quite the opposite. From the About page:
I haven’t always been a happy mom. In fact, there was a time that I was downright miserable. But through the years, I came to learn some secrets, tips and tricks that have helped me tip the scales back toward the happy side.
The other cool thing? She cuts through the shrouds of guilt and self-deprivation that tend to characterize motherhood, instead encouraging the key message that it’s taking care of ourselves that helps us to feel more balanced as parents. But not in a self-centred way. Again, she says it best:
By taking care of our health and well-being, defining our values so we can focus on the things that matter to us (and forget the rest,) nurturing our homes and relationships, and setting reasonable standards for ourselves and everyone around us, moms really can learn to enjoy life…even when it’s chaotic, loud and messy.
Amen to that, sister.
This past week I had the honour of attending the annual graduation ceremony hosted by Toronto’s Centre for Community Learning & Development (CCL&D, formerly East End Literacy). Having been involved in the mid-to-late 90’s, I still get invited to celebrate the organization’s tremendous progress — and always leave filled with positivity and admiration for their accomplishments.
I cannot say enough good things about the innovative — yet ultra-intuitive– ways that this organization has transformed itself and its community (which spans the St. Jamestown and Regent Park areas of Toronto, but has expanded its reach in recent years through partnerships with community programs across the Greater Toronto Area).
In this year’s highlights, CCL&D introduced a series of compelling personal stories its program participants had created. Using still photography from the students’ personal collections, interspersed with scenery, abstract images and custom-made artwork, each story was narrated using voiceovers, with the participants narrating their personal histories.
The stories spanned generations of history, taking place in countries across the globe, to culminate in each person’s present-day experience in Toronto, at CCL&D. To have the narrators/creators in the audience, and receiving recognition for their other accomplishments in learning and community development made the experience that much more profound.
Recognizing their success with integrating this technology into its curriculum, the Center for Digital Storytelling based in Berkeley, California has conferred official partner site status to CCL&D (you can see some sample digital stories on the Berkeley org’s site).
You could say that the new addition to its programming brings this organization full-circle: from being Toronto’s pioneer in self-publishing for literacy learners in the 70’s, to harnessing twentieth-century technologies to once more give a voice to the people who come through its doors seeking to make positive changes in their lives.
Gee, I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next year.
This is a topic I’ve learned about the hard way – you see, I’m one of those people about whom all the media are now talking, who have racked up way too much credit-card debt and hold too many cards.
But fortunately (sort of), I hit 40 last year and finally got the good sense to engage a financial adviser. Her first order of business? Weaning my husband and I off our VISA habit. Having finally drilled down to figure out which ones have the lowest interest rate, we are now cancelling cards left-and-right.
And it’s not just to avoid temptation: it’s also to improve our credit rating. Did you know that just having room on multiple cards raises your debt ratio? I didn’t.
“Debt ratio,” you say? If you don’t even know what that is (and again, I didn’t, either), you can at least be comforted in knowing you’re not alone. A report released today on CBC.ca warns that more and more of us are starting to default on our credit card payments.
There is some good coming of this, though. Last week it was announced that a new task force is being struck to improve financial literacy among Canadians. I’ve also been hearing more and more about revisions to the school curriculum to include this important topic.
You may think it sad and not surprising that these issues are making it into the headlines both here and in the U.S., now that so many are now suffering the consequences of our ignorance. All I can say is, thank goodness it’s happening, no matter the timing! If only those programs had been around in my elementary and secondary school days (in case you’re even more phobic of numbers than I am, they were in the 70’s and 80’s).
Now, let’s just hope that the Financial Literacy Task Force will consult heavily with educators and literacy professionals as they figure out their action plan.
Want to further educate yourself?
Here’s a link from the ‘horse’s mouth,’ as it were: The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) offers a host of resources to help you become more financially literate.