Plain Language: Avoiding Government Speak

This course will take place at the School of Government in Chapel Hill, NC.

Jargon and bureaucrat-speak: Can anyone understand what we’re saying? If you are a local government professional who cares about clear and useful communications, Plain Language is for you.

How do you create useful information? How do you make sure people can find it and use it? How can you build a culture of clear communication in your organization?

Plain Language is more than words, it is a reader-centered mindset that helps us produce clear content that is easy to find and easy to use. It’s words, design, images, and compassion working together.

During this one-day workshop, you’ll learn the basics of Plain Language and how to spot common weaknesses. You’ll be exposed to methods for evaluating and improving government communications. You’ll learn to communicate clearly with external and internal audiences. You’ll learn how others have embraced Plain Language techniques to save time and money and reduce conflict. You’ll leave with the knowledge you need to create a culture of clear communications in your own organization.

Plain Language is a learned skill and it always begins with understanding your audience. Bring your own examples of difficult-to-understand communications and leave with the tools you need to improve your organization.


Meet Your Instructors

Mary Jane Nirdlinger has over 20 years of public service experience and currently serves as the Deputy Town Manager in Chapel Hill. Her work experience includes local, county, state, federal, and private sector roles. She is passionate about making public sector information clear and useful because clarity builds trust, which is more important than ever. Mary Jane received a B.A. in International Relations from American University, a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan, and an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She conducts training and workshops on plain language skills and speaks on the topic at local and national conferences.

  • Chapel Hill, NC
    April 28
    UNC School of Government
    400 South Road
    Chapel Hill, NC 27514
    View Cancellation Policy
    Course participants who cancel their registration on or before April 20, 2023 will receive a full refund. No refund will be made for cancellations on or after April 21, 2023, but you will receive a transferrable credit to be used within 12 months. Click here to view the School’s full cancellation and refund policy.
    Registration and payment for this course grants access for a single attendee. In order to register a group of attendees, please register each person individually. If you have questions, please contact our registration office at or 919.966.4414.
There are no materials avaliable for this course at this time.
For all registration questions, resetting passwords, or login issues please contact:

Dale Zuckert

Assistant Registrar
For questions regarding course details, including location, schedule, materials, and continuing education credits, please contact:

Julia Marshall

Program Associate, Management, Administration, and Leadership Group
Lydian Altman
Teaching Assistant Professor, Center for Public Leadership and Governance