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No Pain, All Gain: The Case for Plain Language in Municipal Regulation


It’s late in the afternoon on Friday; the office is quiet. Suddenly the phone rings. There’s a resident on the line—she’s planning to build a shed in her backyard and wants to know where to put it. The development officer is gone for the day, but you figure the question is easy enough to answer. You flip open your copy of the land use bylaw.

It takes a minute to remember that sheds are called “accessory buildings” in the bylaw, and a few minutes more to find the part about accessory buildings in residential areas. You’re relieved when you discover it, but the feeling is quickly followed by a mild sense of panic after you read the regulation once . . . twice . . . three times . . . and still aren’t sure you fully understand it. You feel sheepish admitting this to the caller, who took the time to inquire and obviously deserves the correct advice.

The truth is—many of us have probably faced similar difficulty comprehending the regulations in a land use bylaw. The problem may be common, but the solution could be plain—and simpler—than you think.

Read the full article: No Pain All Gain: The Case for Plain Language in Municipal Regulation

This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Municipal World magazine. 

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