The communicative effectiveness of section 3.3 of the benefits policy (DV0406) of Stellenbosch University (SU) after rewriting it into plain language and according to document design principles

Gabriels, Carmen Allison Pamela (2020-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: All documents, including policy documents, should be as clear, understandable and transparent as possible. It should enable any individual of average literacy, including the academic staff (C1), administrative/support staff (C2) and technical staff (C3) of Stellenbosch University (SU) to understand text when reading it for the first time, regardless of educational level. A text is written in plain language when its readers are able to discover, understand and apply the intended information after only reading the text once. Hence Kimble’s (1996-1997) notion that plain language is not a form of “baby talk” or “dumbing down” the language – it is simply a form of comprehensible and useful communication that could enhance the reading and comprehension of Benefits Policy DV0406 3.3. During in-depth individual interviews this study investigated precisely why readers do not perceive and understand Benefits Policy DV0406 3.3 clearly. Furthermore, it explored the results of writing policy documents in plain language whilst adapting it according to the principles of document design. The focus group discussions was the test phase of this study and an investigation was conducted to determine whether and to what extent plain language techniques rendered the redesigned document more transparent and comprehensible. In addition, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was employed to investigate the dialogue used in Benefits Policy DV0406 3.3. It examined the communicative methods used by those in power. It was engaged to examine the use of language that attempts to disguise social power relations that is often employed by those in power in order to achieve a certain outcome. Additionally, CDA was drawn upon in order to examine the manner in which discourse constructs social control, i.e. the guiding of one group over others by way of language (Wodak, 2009). Plain language together with document design principles were applied in order to produce a policy document in a manner that is as easy and as user-friendly as possible in order for the reader to operate more effectively after internalising the text. Subsequently, they should not experience the need to acquire external sources in order to comprehend a particular document or text. It is with this awareness that this study explored the effects of Benefits Policy DV0406 3.3 on SU employees. Lentz and Pander Maat (2004) believe that document design is a process of combining the varied goals of the text with the varied readers. Its objective is to not only combine the goals of the document with that of its readers, but also to consider financial and legal considerations. Plain language writers endeavour to produce texts that correspond to the readers’ level of understanding (DuBay, 2008) whereas document design principles affirm that successful communication does not depend on error free writing, but it is concerned with the degree to which the content of a text is understood by its readers (Shriver, 1997).

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Alle dokumente, insluitende beleidsdokumente, moet so duidelik, verstaanbaar en deursigtig as moontlik wees. Alle individue met ’n gemiddelde geletterdheidsvlak moet in staat wees om ʼn teks te kan verstaan wanneer hulle dit vir die eerste keer lees, ongeag hul onderwyspeil. Dit sluit die akademiese personeel (C1), administratiewe/ondersteuningspersoneel (C2) en tegniese personeel (C3) van Universiteit Stellenbosch (US) in. ’n Teks is in gewone taal geskryf wanneer lesers die beoogde inligting kan vind, verstaan en toepas nadat hulle die teks slegs een keer gelees het. Vandaar Kimble (1996-1997) se opvatting dat gewone taal nie 'n vorm van “babataal” of verskraling is nie – dit is bloot ’n vorm van verstaanbare en bruikbare kommunikasie wat die lees en begrip van Voordelebeleid DV0406 3.3 kan bevorder. Tydens in-diepte individuele onderhoude het hierdie studie juis ondersoek waarom lesers nie Voordelebeleid DV0406 3.3 verstaan nie. Verder het dit ondersoek ingestel na die gevolge wanneer beleidsdokumente in gewone taal en volgens die beginsels van dokumentontwerp geskryf is. Die fokusgroepbesprekings het die toetsfase van hierdie studie uitgemaak en ’n ondersoek is gedoen om te bepaal in watter mate gewonetaaltegnieke die herontwerpte dokument deursigtiger en meer verstaanbaar maak. Daarbenewens is Kritiese Diskoersanalise (KDA) gebruik om die dialoog te ondersoek wat in die Voordelebeleid DV0406 3.3 gebruik word. Dit het die kommunikatiewe metodes ondersoek wat deur diegene in magsposisies gebruik word. Daar is ondersoek ingestel na die gebruik van taal wat poog om sosiale magsverhoudinge te verbloem wat dikwels deur diegene gebruik word wat aan bewind is, ten einde ’n sekere resultaat te bereik. Daarbenewens is daar op KDA gesteun om die wyse te ondersoek waarop diskoers sosiale beheer onderhou, d.w.s. die kontrole van een groep oor ander deur middel van taal, (Wodak, 2009). Duidelike taal en dokumentontwerpbeginsels is toegepas om die beleidsdokument so maklik en gebruikersvriendelik as moontlik te maak, sodat die leser meer effektief te werk kan gaan nadat sy/hy die teks geïnternaliseer het. Hulle moet gevolglik nie die behoefte ervaar om eksterne bronne te raadpleeg om ’n spesifieke dokument of teks te verstaan nie. Dit is met hierdie bewustheid dat hierdie studie die effek van die Voordelebeleid DV0406 3.3 op US-werknemers ondersoek het. Lentz and Pander Maat (2004) is van mening dat dokumentontwerp ’n proses volg om die uiteenlopende doelstellings van die teks met dié van die uiteenlopende lesers daarvan te kombineer. Die doel is egter nie om net dít te bereik nie, maar ook om finansiële en wetlike oorwegings in ag te neem. Skrywers van gewone taal poog om tekste te produseer wat met die lesers se begripsvlak ooreenstem (DuBay, 2008), terwyl toepassing van dokumentontwerpbeginsels tot gevolg het dat suksesvolle kommunikasie nie afhang van foutvrye skryfwerk nie, maar dat dit gaan oor die mate waartoe lesers die inhoud van 'n teks verstaan (Shriver, 1997).

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107976
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