Last fall, Congress passed the Plain Writing Act, which requires the government
to write all new publications, forms and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner that follows the best practices of plain-language writing.
You'd think that would be a common-sense thing to do, so why go to the trouble of passing a law?
Those who spend their days inside the Beltway, however, are in a world all their own. And to this point, it's been a world full of legalese and jargon-speak that could only be interpreted by insiders. Or those who have been insiders.
Then came an increased emphasis on open government and transparency. Thus, the public has more access to government processes and documentation than ever before. But all that access does nothing if the documents are indecipherable. That's how the Plain Writing Act came to be.
And actually, the law won't do much either unless those to which it applies are given practical steps with which to implement the requirements. That's exactly what the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is offering, according to Federal News Radio. OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein issued a memo this week to help agencies prepare for the act's July 13 implementation deadlines.
By that date, agencies must select one or more senior officials for plain writing who will oversee implementation efforts, and they must create an oversight plan for monitoring its compliance with the act's requirements. Agencies must also tell employees about the legislation and train them in plain writing. Finally, agencies must create a plain writing section on their websites. The first thing to be published in the plain writing section of the website, also by July 13, will be the agency's plan for implementing the act.