Click here to skip navigation
This website uses features which update page content based on user actions. If you are using assistive technology to view web content, please ensure your settings allow for the page content to update after initial load (this is sometimes called "forms mode"). Additionally, if you are using assistive technology and would like to be notified of items via alert boxes, please follow this link to enable alert boxes for your session profile.
An official website of the United States Government.

Open Government Blog

Posted 10:50 AM by

On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act into law. This Act requires all Federal agencies to write most documents in plain language and requires all new covered documents to be written in plain language beginning October 13th.

As you know, plain language is communicating with your audience so they understand what you're saying the first time they read or hear it. It's worth remembering that language that is "plain" to one set of readers may not be plain to others. So keeping in mind who your audience is will help immeasurably.

Written material is in plain language if your audience can easily:

  • Find what they need;
  • Understand what they find; and
  • Use what they find to meet their needs.

What kind of documents should be written in plain language? Any document that (1) is necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes, (2) provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service, or (3) explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces. This includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction and does not include regulations.

Want to learn more? Online plain language training is available from the National Institutes of Health at plainlanguage.nih.gov/CBTs/PlainLanguage/login.asp. You don’t have to login, just click Browse to get started.

If you have any questions, please visit our Plain Language site or feel free to leave us a comment here.


Comments 20     0 thumbs up     0 thumbs down Share

Comments

D. Berean
7/11/2011 at 6:41 PM
I think OPM is on right track with the new HR Univ, which I have already taken all free online courses and find them concise, good graphics, timing is appropriate for people with shorter attention span..this needed in every walk of life because texting is leading to loss of communication skills, speech therapists will be needed later on for daily chat...E-books like old time typewriter, short sentences on page, return and loss of vivid creativity
Rodger Pitcairn
7/12/2011 at 3:55 PM
The Plain Language Act of 2011 is hardly a model of plain language. E.g., the Act repeatedly uses "shall" rather than "must." Also, the Act uses the bureaucratic term "implementation" on several occasions. LOL Are we allowed to use precise, educated words? For example, I used "obviate" in a regulation that I recently drafted. Obviously, the word isn't simple minded; however, the word compactly explained a concept. In contrast, had I used plain language, my explanation might have been several words longer. Does plain language apply only to English or to other languages? I work at an agency where we post notices on our web site in multiple languages. Will someone be checking to see if we are using plain Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, etc.? What if my agency refuses to use the Q&A format? What's the punishment? Finally, what are we supposed to when our reviewing attorneys are borderline illiterate? As far as I can tell, we aren't permitted to protest the attorneys' sub par writing.
Hobart Swan
7/13/2011 at 12:41 PM
I write for a company that recently provided its one-billionth (with a "b") consumer with concise, clear health information. Plain language works. Is the federal government hiring any writers with plain language experience to help in this historic transformation?
C. Lee Willis
7/18/2011 at 8:34 AM
I am a retired OPM employee. There have been many such efforts in the past. To add a bit of humor to the discussion, I would like to paraphrase a statement I read many years ago in a government document on "Plain English." It said to use short, simple sentences to avoid circumlocution. I like think someone had a great sense of humor. Then again maybe not.
C. Lee Willis
7/18/2011 at 8:36 AM
I am a retired OPM employee. There have been many such efforts in the past. To add a bit of humor to the discussion, I would like to paraphrase a statement I read many years ago in a government document on "Plain English." It said to use short, simple sentences to avoid circumlocution. I like think someone had a great sense of humor. Then again maybe not.
Anonymous
7/18/2011 at 2:29 PM
I really like your post. I found it really usefull. I am going to go to your website again some day [url=http://www.tropicalrainforestbiome.net]Tropical Rainforest Biome[/url]
Anonymous
7/18/2011 at 2:29 PM
I really like your post. I found it really usefull. I am going to go to your website again some day [url=http://www.tropicalrainforestbiome.net]Tropical Rainforest Biome[/url]
john stewart
7/18/2011 at 2:29 PM
I really like your post. I found it really usefull. I am going to go to your website again some day [url=http://www.tropicalrainforestbiome.net]Tropical Rainforest Biome[/url]
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
clothing in nepal
10/12/2011 at 3:33 AM
I think this site has some very wonderful information for everyone : D. Looking for handmade hippie,bohemian and ethnic clothing from Nepal. Log onto http://www.kathmanduclothing.com/
Nick Wright
2/11/2012 at 6:32 AM
Is the Department of Health and Human Services’ press release ‘Health Reform to Require Insurers to Use Plain Language in Describing Health Plan Benefits, Coverage’ in plain English? Analyzing the press release with StyleWriter – plain English editing software – revealed: • Grade Level = 16 (Rated as Difficult) • Average Sentence Length = 27 words (Rated as Bad) • Style Index = 71 a measure of style faults (Rated as Bad) • Bog Index = 60 a measure of overall style and readability (Measured as Poor) The only measure they scored well on was using active verbs. See attached graphics for full analysis. Here’s a flavour of what they wrote: Two paragraphs from the original press release: All health plans and insurers will provide an SBC [Summary of Benefits Coverage] to shoppers and enrollees at important points in the enrollment process, such as upon application and at renewal. A key feature of the SBC is a new, standardized plan comparison tool called “coverage examples,” similar to the Nutrition Facts label required for packaged foods. The coverage examples will illustrate sample medical situations and describe how much coverage the plan would provide in an event such as having a baby (normal delivery) or managing Type II diabetes (routine maintenance, well-controlled) These examples will help consumers understand and compare what they would have to pay under each plan they are considering. Suggested redraft: Health plans and insurers will give the public a Summary of Benefits Coverage in key documents such as the application and renewal forms. The Summary has a new standardized plan using ‘coverage examples’ similar to the Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods. To help consumer understanding, these examples will describe the money paid out in events such as having a normal birth, managing routine Type II diabetes. Is this an example of the new federal government’s commitment to clear language under the Plain Writing Act? If the press office of a major agency can’t write in plain language when writing about plain language, there’s little hope of getting all federal employees out of bad writing habits. StyleWriter demos and free trial at: www.editorsoftware.com Email me for a full StyleWriter analysis of the press release. Nick Wright Editor Software Mail: info@editorsoftware.com Website: www.editorsoftware.com Tel: +44 1453 548409
Nepali Scarf
8/3/2012 at 5:03 AM
I like this site
<a href="http://www.kathmanduclothing.com">jacets from nepal</a>
faisal
9/24/2012 at 3:44 AM
[url=http://download.vip006.com/en/Review/miniplayer/]Miniplayer[/url]

<a href="http://download.vip006.com/en/Review/miniplayer/" target="_blank">Miniplayer</a>

http://download.vip006.com/en/
Anonymous
4/27/2013 at 3:33 AM
i like this, thank for this post

Denotes a required field.

 
   
 

 

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the OpenOPM initiative, visit www.opm.gov/open.

 
Control Panel

Unexpected Error

There was an unexpected error when performing your action.

Your error has been logged and the appropriate people notified. You may close this message and try your command again, perhaps after refreshing the page. If you continue to experience issues, please notify the site administrator.

Working...