School Information System
Newsletter Sign Up |

Subscribe to this site via RSS: | Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 13, 2012

Advocates of the Plain Writing Act prod federal agencies to keep it simple

Lisa Rein:

Federal agencies must report their progress this week in complying with the Plain Writing Act, a new decree that government officials communicate more conversationally with the public.

Speaking plainly, they ain't there yet.

Which leaves, in the eyes of some, a basic and critical flaw in how the country runs. "Government is all about telling people what to do," said Annetta Cheek, a retired federal worker from Falls Church and longtime evangelist for plain writing. "If you don't write clearly, they're not going to do it."

But advocates such as Cheek estimate that federal officials have translated just 10 percent of their forms, letters, directives and other documents into "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use," as the law requires.

Official communications must now employ the active voice, avoid double negatives and use personal pronouns. "Addressees" must now become, simply, "you." Clunky coinages like "incentivizing" (first known usage 1970) are a no-no. The Code of Federal Regulations no longer goes by the abbreviation CFR.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at April 13, 2012 1:08 AM
Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas
Post a comment

Remember personal info?