GCN: Notwithstanding endeavors to eschew obfuscation, website readability drops

GCN: Notwithstanding endeavors to eschew obfuscation, website readability drops

From GCN. By Amanda Ziadeh
Published: February 09, 2016

More than five years after President Barack Obama signed the Plain Writing Act, the readability of federal agency websites has gotten worse. The complex, “government-ese” language not only obscures communications, but it also costs agencies money as they clarify the message through different channels and respond to misunderstandings, according to a recent report.

The 2016 U.S. Government Plain Writing Index compares this year’s findings to the index published in 2011, just after the Plain Writing Act of 2010 began requiring clear communication practices and plain language.  It was compiled by VisibleThread, which used its enterprise-grade document content analysis solution and a database of complex words published by to produce the data for the Index.

The report finds that despite modest improvements with regard to passive voice and long-sentence frequency, federal agency communication is regressing overall. Measures of average complexity across the Index have more than doubled, and readability has gone up a full grade level.


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