A positive attitude is the key to successful public communication

Dutch municipalities on a quest to simplify language

Dutch municipalities on a quest to simplify language

Municipal authorities want to ensure that residents understand them well

We often say that local authorities are the closest authority to citizens, but how does this work in reality? Effective and close communication between citizens and their local representatives is actually not a given unless the latter make special efforts to reduce bureaucracy and to convey easy-to-understand messages to the population.

Luckily, Dutch municipalities have decided to get much better at this. The latest authority to do this is that of Arnhem, and they are relying on a small but motivated group of local helpers. The municipality of 160 thousand inhabitants recently announced on its website that it is launching a readers’ panel for clearer language.

Communication is a two-way street

The Arnhem municipal authorities started training, this year, on how to use clear language and how to communicate more effectively. However, there is still room for improvement, the municipality believes, which is why they are launching a citizen-assisted initiative.

As of mid-August, citizens can sign up for a panel and give their opinion on the language used by the Municipality. Signing up for the readers' panel is possible online or over the phone. High language skills are not a requirement - everyone can participate and help the authority learn.

The readers’ panel will last one year, during which each participant will receive texts from the city. Every two months, participants will be asked to read a short text (up to 1 page) – a letter, an e-mail or an extract from the city website.

They will have to say what they think about the texts and evaluate them against several criteria. Finally, they should share how comprehensible the text is and give advice on how it can be improved. The authorities will take the recommendations into account and will send the reviewed version back.

Participation is voluntary, can be withdrawn at any point or continued beyond the first year. Furthermore, for those who are not so-tech savvy, it is also possible to participate over the phone.

Does your municipality communicate clearly? Share your story with us at



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU