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Last week, we posted a link to one of the two performances of I Can Read Clearly Now (a.k.a., the Plain Language Ditty), the song we adapted from Johnny Nash’s original classic I Can See Clearly Now.

HealthNet video on YouTube: I Can Read Clearly Now

This bright and positive interpretation will warm any wintry mood!

Here’s the second way some literacy advocates out there took our words and Nash’s tune … and let their imagination do the rest! This next YouTube rendition was the brainchild of Coco Lukas and his fellow health literacy advocates at HealthNet, Inc., a community health resource center in Indianapolis, Indiana, whose mission is one I can sure get behind:

“To improve lives with compassionate health care and support services, regardless of ability to pay.”

Inspired by the song’s message at the PLAIN conference in Vancouver and the International Plain Language Day events on October 13, Lukas and colleagues went home and put together the colourful, positive video you see below – complete with young, enthusiastic voices … and animals! Have a look and a listen; it’ll no doubt add some warmth to your winter day.

Read, see and hear lots more from the conference on the official PLAIN 2013 conference site. Check it out – and also the Plain Language Association International site – to get the latest in research and insights about clear communication for all. 


We’re thrilled with – and honoured by – the number of views the Plain Language Ditty received from plain-language enthusiasts when we posted it back in October just before the Plain Language Association International’s conference in Vancouver.


Dorrie Ratzlaff and Rush Clement perform I Can Read Clearly Now.

It had started as just a light diversion from my normal routine of editing health, legal and financial language: a way to contribute to the conference that might engage the participants senses differently while literally singing the praises of clear messages for all. Conference organizer Cheryl Stephens had asked if I could do an adaptation. I thought of this song, and you’ve seen the result!

Well, it sure took off from there, and now others have started offering their own interpretations. Here’s the first of these, part of the festivities in Vancouver to honour International Plain Language Day on October 13, 2013. So turn up those speakers and enjoy!

Thanks and ‘props’ to performers Dorrie Ratzlaff and Rush Clement, and also to Kate Whiteside for managing the production and publishing for the video. By the way, you can see a lot more from the conference on the official PLAIN 2013 conference site.

As our title suggests, there’s yet another interpretation out there, too! Watch for it in the next few days … and keep humming this enduring tune (especially as winter drapes its blanket over most of us North of the Equator).

More on the original song
We must again acknowledge that this was an adaptation to start with: from the original recording by Johnny Nash, first released back in 1972 [when your writer was just a wee babe yet]).

Our first post did not mention that along with Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, Canadian jazz songstress Holly Cole also covered this song with her Trio back in 1993. A YouTube search also brings up a Bobby McFerrin performance.)

20130509_191902As we count down the last week before the 20th Anniversary conference of the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), and in honour of International Plain Language Day October 13, here is a song I’ve adapted for the occasion.

It celebrates the benefits of plain language in helping us more clearly see, hear, read and understand the information around us.

Feel free to hum or sing along as you go …I bet you remember the tune!


I Can Read Clearly Now  (sung to the tune of Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now)

Original Copyright: Epic Records and Johnny Nash, (c) 1972 **

Adaptation © Michelle Black, October 2013


[Verse One]

I can read clearly now

The fog is gone

I can see all it means

and what to do.


Gone are the loaded words

That had me lost.

It’s gonna be a much, much easier day.

[Verse two]

I think I can make it now,

The noise is gone.

Passive voice and noun stacks have disappeared.

Here is that message I’ve been looking for.

Wow, this is a much, much easier way.


Read it out loud, it sounds like they’re talking.

You understand – and know where you’re walking ….

[Verse three to end]

I can hear clearly now.

It all makes sense.

I can make sound decisions and act on them.20130530_173445

I’ve got a clearer path in front of me.

Plain language has helped, helped me make my way.

[Last line:] Plain language can help, help you make your way.

– Ends

** See more on the Wikipedia page for background on the original song and artist.


It was announced last week that Canadian radio will now be censoring the 80’s classic Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. Going forward, stations in Canada will only allowed to play a version that has the word ‘faggot’ removed. This was due to a complaint from an individual in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

A few months back, I posted a similar sentiment about the photos of Col Russell Williams (since relieved of that honorific) being plastered all over the news media. But this is another story altogether – and in fact, if you contrast the two, it’s an interesting comparison.

The argument about publishing Williams’ images had to do with the public’s right to know about the truly deranged nature of the crimes, and the criminal who committed them, in order to execute proper legal process. But nobody in the public got to weigh in on whether they should be able to stumble upon that information.

Talk about the squeaky wheel in action!

Here, we’re looking at an admittedly objectionable word, taken in isolation, and saying the public should not have to hear it…because one person complained!

Again, I do not in any way support the use of the word ‘faggot’ if used to promote hatred of homosexuals (except, I suppose, when gay men use it to self-identify. In this case, my understanding is that these folks intend to take the hatred out of word by claiming it and using it in their own way.)

But if you’ve got an ounce of intelligence, you can see that the song was intended to point the shameful finger at the very people who use such language and have narrow, hateful attitudes. It’s satire, folks! Aren’t Canadians known for being more tolerant than some other nations of subtle, artistic interpretations of our world? ‘Guess not.

Then there’s the argument: ‘Well, some people won’t get that from the song. They’ll just hear the word and get offended.’ Or better yet, ‘Do you want your kids to hear that and start walking around calling people that.’

My response? Sure, there’s the risk that maybe they would. But as a responsible parent, I would find out where they’d learned the word. And had it actually been from this song – a marginal possibility some 25 years after its release – it would be a good opportunity to educate them about the hateful worldviews some people have about others  who are more, er, colourful (and more likely, successful) than they are. Remember that this song was released around the same time as it’s main target, MTV: remember glam pop, shoulderpads and big hair (and that was just the guys)?

In my book, the lesson about how smallminded people can be is of more value than anything they’ll ever hear from Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers.

King of the Hill

King of the Hill

Khannie: “What did he say?”

Peggy: “A lot of words that sound wise, but mean nothing.”

If you’ve never cottoned to King of the Hill (sadly, just cancelled after 13 seasons), you might want to give it a second chance.

This animated show yields surprisingly incisive social commentary, including caricaturing doublespeak and the ensuing bad behaviour among overly-self-righteous righties and lefties.

The show offers lots of gems about manipulative language to pepper the mix! Will add more as I rediscover them…

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