PLAIN’s first life member: Cheryl Stephens

PLAIN is delighted to acknowledge Cheryl Stephens as its first life member. Her tireless 30-year contribution to plain language has been vital not just to our own organization, but to the development of plain language as a profession.


Cheryl Stephens was a lawyer who started working on a law firm’s forms bank in 1987. She quickly decided that legal language needed to change. She became Associate Director at the Plain Language Project of Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia in 1990.

This led to consulting work and co-founding the Plain Language Consultants Network in 1993 with Kate Harrison Whiteside, which later evolved into today’s Plain Language Association International (PLAIN).

Cheryl was co-chair of the first three PLAIN conferences in Winnipeg (1995), Calgary (1997), and Houston (2000), later returning to co-host the 20th anniversary event in Vancouver in 2013. PLAIN recognized these achievements with a one-off Founders Award for Cheryl and Kate at that conference.


In the early years, Cheryl achieved a number of firsts, including the plain language newsletter Rapport (1991-1997), setting up PLAIN’s first website, and establishing the first email discussion group on plain language.

Cheryl constantly experimented with ways that technology and social media could promote plain language. In recent years, she established the Twitter newsletter Plain Language Twittery and the LinkedIn Group Plain Language Advocates that now has more than 18,000 members.


Over the years, Cheryl has also written and published a wide range of books and articles on plain language.

Her latest book Plain Language in Plain English is a complete guide to clear communication. Plain Language Legal Writing was the first in her Plain Language Wizardry series and outlines how to spice up your legal practice using plain language.


As a plain language practitioner, Cheryl’s favourite projects include developing the online training course the Plain Train, a multilingual legal dictionary, and targeting crime through literacy.

She continues to be active in developing plain language as a profession by running International Plain Language Day on October 13 each year and teaching in the online Plain Language Certificate program at Simon Fraser University.