Fascinating to read last week that as of October this year, the US will be enforcing a Plain Writing Act on all documents for public consumption. Although the federal government will still be able to ‘write nonsensically to itself’ (thanks to this article for that fantastic phrasing), any new or revised documents produced for the public will be written under the Act.
It’s been a slow burner, cooking since Clinton’s administration, but with Annetta Cheek as its driving force, the federal government is well on its way to clarity.
As the source article illustrates, simple changes can make a big difference. Clearer, simpler language will ensure people understand exactly what is being done for and to them, and what the government expects of them too. That means less money wasted, (hopefully) less rules misunderstood and therefore broken, and a fairer system of benefits. Significant consequences of a seemingly obvious requirement for clearer communication.
The Act will essentially provide a list of dos, don’ts and alternative phrasing. Examples of the don’ts include ‘promulgated’, ‘herein’, ‘evidenced’ and ‘in accordance with’. It also insists that each government agency has a senior official responsible for overseeing written communications, a section of its website dedicated to their efforts and employee training to ensure steady progress.
What are your thoughts on the Plain Writing Act? If you’re as enthralled as we are, it would be great to chat – is there a way that the British government can build on its own efforts to communicate more clearly?