The development of Easy to Read is nowadays often seen as the development of definitions and rules. Both actors in the Easy to Read field and academic circles throughout Europe are focusing increasingly on categories and classifications.
The reasons for this trend can partly be found in the fight against prejudices in society: If Easy to Read can be defined clearly and comprehensibly, and there are distinct rules, then society must take Easy to Read seriously. A further argument is that beginners needrules for writing Easy to Read texts.
But we should discuss how many and how detailed rules are needed. What is enough and what is too much? How many definitions and rules are sufficient?
Easy Language should be natural
The danger of too many strict rules is that the language in an Easy to Read text turns rigid and unnatural. The goal is actually the opposite: Easy Language should be living and natural. The contents are told in Easy Language, but the language should invite to read; in other words, it should be linguistically interesting.
Authors and publishers can use language levels to describe how easy or difficult language is in a book or text. But language levels must have flexible borders: Also in the standard language there are various ways for expression, and different themes require diverse uses of language. A book about climate change cannot be told in the same way as a book about dogs or artificial intelligence.
What kind of rules are needed in that case? Do we need rules – or preferably principles and frames?
Rules or frames?
In the fight for acknowledgment of Easy to Read in society we should not forget that Easy Language is a living language, a variation of the standard language. Easy Language follows standard language vocabulary and grammar. It develops and changes together with standard language – and with each new Easy to Read book.
Must all existing rules be followed before a text is classified as Easy to Read? Our answer is no.
Easy to Read writers, like all writers, develop their individual language. To write an exciting language requires exercise and creativity both in the standard language and in Easy Language. Too hard limitations for Easy to Read causes the language to be one-sided and boring for the reader.
Easy Language must not be suffocated by too complicated or strict rules. Bokpil’s writers’ experiences with Easy to Read writing in several languages, and Team Bokpil’s work with translations into languages without previous Easy Language, show that frames are needed, not rules. For a living language which is attractive to the readers, flexibility and freedom are required.