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Paul M. LeBel

Stakeholder Communications Specialist

Paul LeBel has more than 25 years of experience as a writer, editor, and communications planner for a wide variety of government, corporate, and agency clients. His specialities include research and reports, speech and presentation writing, and plain language writing and editing. Before establishing his own communications consultancy, he was Manager, Public Affairs, at Magna International Inc. His previous experience includes staff and management positions with the Government of Ontario, Southam Communications, and Manulife Financial.

Principal, Parallax Communications 1989-present

Paul has an extensive background in writing and editing, with a focus on bringing clarity to his clients’ communications. He has a rich variety of direct experience working with government, large corporations, small business, and public relations and advertising agencies. All of his independent work has included strategic communications planning, project management, and final responsibility for delivery. Recent clients include: the Ontario ministries of Education, Community and Social Services, Children and Youth Services, Economic Development and Employment, International Trade, Research and Innovation, and Tourism; Canadian Commercial Corporation; Hydro One.

Paul is a plain language expert. Working closely with senior government officials and consultants, he has written, edited, or rewritten numerous high-level reports and Cabinet submissions. In most cases, this includes managing the entire report process, from research, writing and editing to approvals and delivery. Recent examples of his work are linked here:

Shaping Land Use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Report of the Ontario Building Safety Technical Advisory Panel

Report of the Student Transportation Competitive Procurement Task Force

Report to the Ontario Minister of Education regarding the Toronto District School Board

Guide to Green Schools, Ontario Ministry of Education

 

Manager Public Affairs, Magna International Inc.

  • Managed public relations programs of international automotive company
  • Supervised staff of four providing internal and external communications services
  • Fielded all media enquiries for Magna and five subsidiaries
  • Arranged plant tours and public information programs
  • Worked directly with agencies in London, England and Detroit on the launch of concept vehicle
  • Oversaw corporate advertising program
  • Reported directly to president and vice-chairman

Media Relations Officer, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development

  • Publicized ministry programs and policies through special events, press releases, advisories
  • Wrote daily briefing papers on contentious issues for the Minister
  • Wrote speeches for the Minister and Deputy Minister
  • Handled media enquiries on business developments, programs, policies
  • Edited ministry publications for internal and external audiences

Education and interests       

  • B.A. (English), University of Manitoba
  • Journalism A, Red River Community College
  • Editorial Excellence Program, Southam Communications
  • Public Relations Diploma, Canadian Public Relations Society
  • Introduction to Advertising, Ryerson
  • Photography I & II, Toronto Adult Education
  • French Intermediate I & II, Ryerson
  • Intermediate French, U of T Continuing Studies
  • Effective Public Speaking, Mica Management
  • Spanish, English Spanish House
  • Mini-Med School, University of Toronto
  • Improvisation, Levels A through E, Second City Training Centre
  • Improvisation, Long form, Bad Dog Theatre Company
  • Three’s Company II: the reality: a play written, directed and produced for the Toronto Fringe Festival

Work samples and project information      

Available at www.parallax.ca


References

Available on request: plebel@parallax.ca, 416-364-4332 or 613-627.0085


Office addresses

Parallax Communications, 22A Glenfern Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4E 1B7

Parallax Communications, 40 Florence St., Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 0W7

 

August 16th, 2016|Business Communications, Plain language|Comments Off on Report writing

Gusty Winds May Exist

-Pamela Kostur
 

Several years ago, I was on a road trip through New Mexico, after attending an IPCC (International Professional Communication Conference) in Santa Fe. Just outside of Albuquerque, a sign warned me that “gusty winds may exist.” I had to pull over I was laughing so hard. Perhaps I was overly sensitive to language-related issues, having just spent the last few days with professional communicators. But, I couldn’t help but wonder if the gusty winds would acknowledge the permission they had been granted.

Here’s the thing. Signs are content too. They direct us, inform us, but all too often, they misdirect us and confuse us. Sometimes they just make us laugh, not their intent, I’m sure. It’s not that I mind a good laugh, but when I need directions, or information, I need signs to communicate effectively.

One of these things is not like the other

Take this gem, spotted at a Longos supermarket in Toronto.

Longos portion control aisle

 

 

 

 

Since when is portion control an item in a supermarket? Besides, isn’t everything in a grocery store portion controlled? Aren’t oranges, apples, bananas, by their very design, portion controlled? You can buy a bunch of bananas, but presumably, eat one at a time, begging the question—are individual bananas included in the portion control aisle? What about individually-wrapped chicken breasts, or a steak?

I think I get what’s going on here, but I’m not sure I’d go into a supermarket looking for the “portion control” aisle. Even if I were, it’s a strange category. After all, a package of something can have its contents separated into portions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat the whole box if you’re so inclined. To my way of thinking, this categorization is just weird, and misleading.

Lost and confused

I’m easily confused at airports. There’s so much going on, and so many signs demanding our attention. Sometimes, just getting to the terminal building can be challenging.

At Toronto’s Pearson International, there’s a car park connected to a monorail station, with train service to the terminal buildings. The monorail waiting area is like a big hallway, with entrances to the monorail on both sides. It’s a great service, for the most part.

Early one morning, the scrolling sign above the doors to one of the monorail entrances read:

Single train service 1

Single train service

 

 

We stood there for several minutes, mulling over the message. What does single train service mean? When all trains are operational, does the message say multi-train service, or two-train service, or three train service? Just how many trains are there anyway? Will single train service affect how long it will take for us to get to the terminal?

Wouldn’t it be simpler to say something like, “Out of service. Use other platform.”

Just for laughs

Leaving a party one night, I was glad to see this sign, especially considering the few glasses of wine I had consumed. But, it still made me laugh! At least it got its warning across.

Uneven ground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s this one, in Toronto’s Gerrard St. Chinatown. Every time I see it, I giggle. I wonder how the store owners chose the items to list on the sign. I have yet to go into the store to see what they really sell, and to figure out the odd categorization. What is a winter accessory, exactly? Hats, scarves, mits, I’m guessing, although hats are also listed separately. Could I also buy a shovel or an ice scraper here? What constitutes a gift? Couldn’t most items in the store be given as gifts? I’m not sure what the store’s name is; I simply refer to it as the Toys Gifts Hats store.

Toys hats and gifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs can be funny, frustrating, useful (or not), misleading. I want whoever creates the content for signs to remember that signs communicate. The content has to be clear, it must not be open to interpretation, and occasionally, it can make me laugh, but only if its message is clear.

Do you have any favourite signs? Send us your signs, tell us why or why they don’t work, and we’ll share them in our blog.

July 7th, 2014|Content analysis, Content Strategy and Development, Plain language|Comments Off on Gusty Winds May Exist
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