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Simpler, more straightforward language is the order of the day in the 21st century, as businesses, public institutions and politicians reach out to larger audiences. Academic journals now require research teams to use plain active-voice sentences and avoid jargon, if they want to see their articles published. Changing social mores, increased accessibility awareness and even a backlash against “elitism” have led writers of all stripes to think more carefully about the clarity of their message. At the same time, social media is changing the way we write and process text.

Join us at our sixth annual English Today seminar in March to consider the ways plain language is changing our communication and interaction – for better or worse. Our keynote speaker this year is former University of Helsinki vice-rector, Arto Mustajoki, who will share his experience as a Finnish-Russian translator and proponent of clear and concise writing. He is joined by journalist and independent content creator Denise Wall, who will teach us how to highlight the essentials in all kinds of storytelling endeavours. Rounding out the crew are two representatives from the Finnish Tax Administration, Outi Toijanniemi and Reeta Tolonen, who will reveal how they whipped the state agency’s language into shape and, perhaps surprisingly, made the taxman the most user-friendly service in Finland!

In response to participant feedback, this year’s seminar will include a fun group activity in place of a fourth presentation, so come ready to put your thinking caps on!

One of NEaT’s most important functions is to create occasions for our members and friends to meet, network and share ideas. This is why the English Today seminar includes time for discussion over a tasty dinner as part of the programme. Participants are welcome to stay and visit!



You are entitled to a discounted rate of €40. There is no technical way to change the payment amount on the FinnBrit website, so please just pay €40.

Time: Friday, 13 March 2020 Doors open at 3:30 pm, programme starts at 4 pm. The speakers should be finished by approximately 7 pm, after which dinner will take 1–2 hours.

Place: FinnBrit offices at Fredrikinkatu 20 A 9 in central Helsinki

Cost: €40 for NEaT and FinnBrit members and NEaT sister organization members, €50 for non-members. The cost of the seminar includes a coffee break, buffet dinner and beverage.

The English Today Seminar is an annual event, proudly presented by the Nordic Editors and Translators Association NEaT and the British cultural society and language course provider FINNBRIT.


Outi Toijanniemi & Reeta Tolonen: Fighting the fog in organisational communication

The Finnish Tax Administration wants to make it easy to pay and manage people’s taxes. To this end, it has invested heavily in developing its web services from a taxpayer point of view. In addition to clear and easy-to-understand guidance and e-services, the agency’s texts are tweaked continuously based on data from user tests and various feedback channels. Selkokeskus estimates that close to 15 percent of the Finland’s population requires clear and simple text, due to various disabilities.

Outi Toijanniemi has a background in Finnish language and organizational communication and has worked in website content creation for years. She enjoys finding simple ways to express complicated issues − and has practised that on at least 250 pages of the Finnish Tax Administration’s website: www.vero.fi.

Reeta Tolonen has over 20 years of experience as a Tax Administration communications specialist. She never gets tired of discussing language and taxes with her colleagues. She is especially interested in easy-to-read language and the complexity of legal language.

Denise Wall: Storytelling as the key to powerful communications

Yle News journalist Denise Wall believes the heart of all compelling communications is a good story. For more than a dozen years, she has been a driving force behind the English-language branch of the Finnish public broadcaster, where she creates original and translated news copy, and writes and produces regular podcast, radio and television broadcasts. She will give us a glimpse into the cultural divide between Finnish and English journalism and the various thought processes behind modern media work. She will also ask us to ponder what kinds of communication styles seem to resonate with today’s audiences.

Trinidad native Denise Wall worked in broadcasting and news reporting before she moved to Finland, and has contributed news reports to the Wall Street Journal and AFP. In addition to her work in journalism, she runs her own one-woman communications consultancy and dreams of writing her own book someday.

Arto Mustajoki: In search of sufficient understanding

Language and humanities guru Arto Mustajoki has spent the first few years of his retirement grappling with what he calls “the most serious problem of the world”: Why don’t people understand each other? He has analysed the most common sources of misunderstanding and miscommunication, referring also to restrictions of human brain and differences of mental worlds of people, and has concluded that cutting out the unnecessary and reaching a level of “sufficient understanding” is the way forward. Our keynote speaker will lead us in a discussion of the building blocks that he feels are necessary to craft successful communication.

Emeritus professor Arto Mustajoki is a specialist in the Russian language, with several award-winning textbooks, language courses, translations and books to his name. He is currently a leading research fellow at the HSE research university in Moscow, and has previously served as chair of the scientific research funding organisation Academy of Finland and vice-rector of the University of Helsinki.

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