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Karen M. Black
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Plain language consulting services

I help communicate complex information clearly.

This web site is my passion project. For income, I'm a freelance plain language consultant and a direct response copywriter (where I both simplify and sell).

I created this page to get me going online. And so I could easily share what I do.

As of August 2018, I finally launched a site dedicated to my plain language and direct response writing services: Extra Sensory Selling.

Below is some information on my plain language work and who I work with. For a list of past employers and testimionials, please go to my LinkedIn profile.

Have a big plain language project? I know people.

If what you need is a team of plain language pros (strategy, design, IT, user testing, more), I’d be happy to make some introductions. Contact me

Who I work with

I work with communication pros in insurance, investment and financial services. Executives hire me to support their organizations directly. Consultants also hire me to be part of their team for specific projects.

Most of the time, my clients are Canadian, but I've worked with U.S. clients as well.

How I work

Here's more about how I work. Am I a fit for your project?

Steps to working with me

First, we’ll discuss what you need. If we agree that I'm a good fit, we'll decide on a quote and finalize how we'll work together.

If we work together, I’ll ask you to sign a work agreement. I'll also sign your confidentiality agreement if you have one.

While I’m working on your project, I'll:

  • tell you when I’m working, and when I’m not so you’re not wondering
  • give you regular status updates
  • be in touch when I have questions, and
  • always be accessible by email.

If your project is particularly complex, I may provide an early draft to make sure I’m on the right track. But I’ll run this by you first.

By the way, I don’t take your feedback personally. Together, we’ll create something that your audiences will understand. That’s all that matters.

My role on your team

I mostly work at home and collaborate online. I can travel if needed.

I’m happiest writing. I can step up when you need me to. I’ve done many things, including project management, interviews, meeting facilitation, complex quotations, request for proposals (RFPs) and more.

Making presentations is not my strength. However, I can write them. And, with a strong lead, I can deliver part of a presentation.

Overtime and last-minute

I generally don’t work weekends or nights. But I always meet deadlines. If we’re in a crunch, I’ll make it happen day or night (you won’t have to ask).

I’m a bit odd. I like rush one-offs! So if you have one, ask.

Respecting technical information

Simplifying doesn’t mean dumbing down. The trick is to increase clarity. In other words:

  • Organize the information logically
  • Simplify the language where possible
  • Warm up the tone, so the writing style is appropriately friendly
  • Use design to enhance clarity even more, and
  • Keep the lawyers, actuaries and other tech-types happy.

My industry experience is mostly with Canadian group benefits and pensions. However, I feel comfortable with investing, pharmaceutical and other insurance topics, too.

I do need access to experts who can technically review the plain languge wording. The experts I most commmonly work with are actuaries, benefit consultants and lawyers.


My consulting rates are much less than the big firms (often up to 50% less).

Yes, I have worked for a flat fee. But only if a project or milestone is clearly defined.

Meeting space in downtown Toronto

I’m a member of Verity Club in downtown Toronto. Verity has some stunning meeting rooms with all the bells and whistles. Plus fab food, which never hurts. I often meet clients there.

About my plain language consulting services

How can I help?

It’s not the customer’s responsibility to learn your jargon. It’s your responsibility to communicate clearly to your customers.

I do plain language writing. I also offer plain language consulting.

When you hire me to do plain language writing, I can work in a number of ways including:

  • simplifying and combining existing materials
  • writing a quick first draft with technical notes (your team finalizes)
  • giving design direction or feedback
  • working within a budget: “Please do a four hour edit…”, or
  • handling the whole nine yards: researching, organizing, messaging, writing and working with your technical and design team to finalize.

My plain language consulting services have included:

  • participating in discovery meetings
  • reviewing and assessing a suite (or sometimes a bag!) of existing materials
  • making recommendations on how to improve existing materials
  • making recommendations on how to improve the customer experience
  • and more.

Documents I’ve simplified

Here’s a list of the types of documents I’ve transformed into plain language. I've worked on single documents and have also created kits and campaigns.

  • Contracts
  • Statements
  • Forms
  • Bills
  • Letters
  • Booklets
  • At a glance summaries
  • Reports
  • Presentations.

I don’t write marketing brochures, except now and then for existing clients. This is because so many folks looking for a brochure really need a marketing strategy (which makes it crazy painful for the writer). If you have a marketing project, I recommend Sandra Bekhor at Bekhor Management.

I don’t specialize in web work, but…

I’ve created two personal web sites, so I know enough .html and search engine optimization (SEO) to be dangerous. However, I don’t offer web consulting.


Yes, I have them! Please go to my LinkedIn profile.

More about me

I have a B.Sc. in biology from the University of Toronto (Erindale) and an M.B.A. from the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.

I’ve worked full-time for three Canadian group insurers. Before going freelance in 2006, I spent seven years working as a senior communication consultant at Krieger and Associates and Buck Consultants.

You may have noticed that I write online on some eclectic topics. These are my passion projects. My creative life quietly seeps in to my style of working and writing.

Am I a good fit for your team?

Just for fun, here’s some more information about me.

According to Myers Briggs, I’m an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). One of my perfect career paths is technical writing. It's because of my highly tuned sensitivity to the audience!

I’m naturally a calm and peaceful person. I’m calm under pressure. I’m cautious, process-oriented and tend to under promise and over deliver. Even if I'm not saying anything, I'm listening intently and always taking notes.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. I get stressed if asked to deliver something before it’s ready. Or if I’m asked to wing it. Yes, I can work quickly, but I do my best work when I have time to reflect.

I work successfully with many personalities. With a more reserved person, I’m reserved (this is most natural for me). With a strong, assertive type, I become stronger and more assertive. I most enjoy working with calm straight-shooters.

As I'm creating your piece, I'm always asking how it will support your customer's experience.

I’m not aiming to be a rock star and I'm quite happy in the background. I do enjoy a challenge and doing interesting, great work with talented colleagues. I especially enjoy working with really smart strategists.

Oh, you should also know: I have no sense of humour whatsoever.

Here's a secret about me

I see plain language consulting through the lens of a higher ideal. Plain language empowers regular people. Shines a light on information which has been painfully morphed. Sometimes into a monster!

I'm also practical: the plain language movement is growing.

Regulators are waking up. So are the courts. Slowly and surely, the responsibility to communicate clearly is shifting to the organization (where it belongs).

Plain language reduces confusion. Increases clarity and trust. Champions transparency. There’s no hiding when you use plain language. Yes, this can make some people nervous.

Transforming your business into plain language isn't easy. But in the end, it’s good for you – and for your customers. Contact me

Have a big plain language project? I know people.

If what you need is a team of plain language pros (strategy, design, technology, user testing, more), I’d be happy to make some introductions.

Thanks for reading about my plain language consulting services. I hope we can work together sometime!

Are you changing inside? – You aren’t alone. You might enjoy my passion project Heart Explorations, or my e-newsletter Moondancing. Created for seekers.

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