Judge: Best Plain Language Turnaround
To the surprise of precisely no one, Fraser never had childhood dreams of becoming a plain language enthusiast and clear-writing consultant. However, his journey to get there started — unusually — with 12 years in the diplomatic world specialising in building rule-of-law and security institutions in post-conflict zones. After some time in Bosnia, then at a foreign-policy think-tank in Paris making academic waffle sound snappy enough to catch the attention of EU decision makers, Fraser became hell-bent on understanding why people write the way they do, and how to fix it. He realised that you need to get deep into the psychology of both the drafter and the reader, and that the writer’s cognitive biases were the causes of almost all bad writing.
Fraser eventually moved back to the Balkans to help a gigantic EU mission rebuild Kosovo’s rule-of-law institutions. In his daily work, stacks of crucial reports for headquarters were landing on his desk to clear on behalf of the mission’s bosses — but in a particularly jarring type of Euro-English. This is where Fraser decided enough was enough and began his relentless clear-writing crusade from inside the EU.
Several years later, Fraser moved to France and launched The Clear Writing Lab, an association of clear-writing consultants who take on any plain language task, big or small. One day they are rewriting complex investment documents, the next they are fine-tuning policy papers for international organisations. Another day they are teaching university students about the psychology of writing, the other they are giving one-on-one coaching sessions to aspiring writers.