But if we want a lot of different kinds of people to understand what we are saying, then we need to think about how we are saying it .
I care about clear language for all information that "the general public" is supposed to read. I especially care about clear language for all information that "women" need to read. This includes information about childcare, our health, our rights as workers, or our right to a safe place to live. It includes information about meetings, about parties, about community services and art and music.
What does it mean that so much of this information is difficult to find in the first place and difficult to understand once we find it? What does this difficulty say about the rights of all women to have the same kinds of information?
Some women say they write the way they do because that is what they learned in school or that is how they have to write at their jobs. When they leave school or their jobs and do work with women, they can not stop writing that way. They do not know any other way to write.
But most of us can talk to other women, face-to-face. We can pay attention to who the other women are if we sit across a table and chat. So why can't we write the way we speak? When we are putting out women's booklets or papers or posters, why don't we just sit down and write the way we talk?
What have we got to lose? Many of us have learned that if we do not write in a certain way we will not sound important. So - if we keep writing in "important-sounding" ways, does this mean we need other women to think we are important? Do we need to think we are more important than the women we want to talk to?
I think that most women do want to write in ways that other women can understand. We do want to talk with one another as much as we can. But, this means many of us have to learn new ways of writing. Sometimes this also means we have to learn new ways of thinking about who we are in the world.
I have worked out some questions writers can ask when they begin to write something for oilier women to read. I do not think that these are the best questions or the only questions. I am still learning a lot about new ways of writing myself. But, I do think we need to start somewhere.
These are also questions that other women might ask when they find something they can not understand. If we could start to ask these questions of each other, just think what might happen! Posters, booklets, papers, notices that are clear and easy to read! Information we can actually understand!
I use the word "we" when I am talking about both the writer and the reader. I do not think there is one group of women who write and one group of women who read. I think most of us have trouble finding writing that makes sense in our lives. So we are all readers who have trouble. Many of us reading this article are also writers. We try to use words and writing to talk about what is important in our lives. We also have the power that comes with being able to write. Each one of us needs to understand who we are in these questions. The more we can see ourselves and others, the easier it will be to talk.
Step 1: Here is a simple question to ask-
What happens when women write something that many other women do not understand?
There are three main reasons that women do not understand information. We may not know how to read the words. We may not think the words have anything to do with our lives, so we ignore them. We may be able to read the words and we may want to read the words, but we still can not understand what they mean.
If we want the information and we do not get it for any of these reasons, we may feel left out. We may feel like no one cares whether we understand or not. We can get angry and we can get sad and feel alone.
How do we feel when we are the writer? We may feel important-or we may feel angry and sad and alone because not enough women are reading our words.
Whose problem is it that some women do not read and understand what other women write?
We can say that women who can not read or understand our writing have a problem. They can be labelled "functionally illiterate." They can go to programs that teach reading.
But we can also look at the problem in a different way. We can say that those of us who write have a problem. We can be labeled "functionally unreadable" because other women can not understand what we write. We are using words and sentences and talking about ideas in a way that does not make sense to many other women.
In the end, all women who want to talk with each other by using words and writing have a problem when the writing gets in the way. But the writers are the women who can change most easily. It is more often the women who write who have the kind of power that allows us to change what we are doing.
So, the first step is to think about what actually happens when some women can not read what other women write.