The Best and Worst at Plain Language in Government
From GovLoop. By Lauren Girardin
Published: February 09, 2016
Federal agencies are legally required to use plain language. Yet, according to a new report, federal agencies are failing to do so.Plain language has been the law of the land for federal agencies since the Plain Writing Act of 2010. A GSA user experience evangelist once described the Act as “one of the most important developments in open government…akin to the falling of the Berlin Wall and the bringing of democracy to Eastern Europe.”That might seem like hyperbole. But, using plain language makes it more likely that people will understand what your agency has to say. It can also reduce the costs of running your agency.Despite the clear need for plain language in federal communications, according to the new report, agencies have gotten worse at using it on their websites. Since an agency’s website is usually one of the most important tools for helping and empowering people with services and knowledge, this failure is troubling.The good news is that some agencies are using plain language well and some are showing signs of improvement—though many are failing to put best practices into place.Which federal agencies should you look to as models of plain language? Which ones are getting it wrong and why?