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Open Government Blog

Plain Language

Posted 3:38 PM by

Today we released our first annual Plain Writing Act Compliance Report. We invite you to give it a read.

As you will see in the report, we've primarily focused our efforts on informing and training our own OPM employees. We're also de-cluttering our website and beginning to ensure our documents are written in plain language for everyone. However, we'd like your help. Keep an eye out for a challenge we will issue for you to identify OPM documents we should make easier to understand using plain language.

Until then, we'd love to hear your comments on the report and how you think we’re doing with the plain writing initiative. Please leave us your comments in – you guessed it – the "Comments" section.


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.


 

Learn More

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

 
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