Sunday, November 14, 2010

Plain Writing Act of 2010

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 into law on October 13, 2010.  The new legislation will require federal government agencies to draw up a plain language action plan, and to train staff to write plain English, within the next 6-9 months.  Under the act, documents from agencies must be in plain English: clear, concise, well-organized, and appropriate to the subject and audience.

Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa, who sponsored the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (H.R. 946), has a press release that provides some background to the act.  The press release also includes these helpful examples about how government language would change (for the better!) by using plain language:

Examples of Plain Language in Use: Before and After

Here are three before-and-after examples of how plain language was applied to federal documents to make them easier to understand.  For more examples, see http://www.plainlanguage.gov.

Example #1: Medicare Fraud Letter (click link)

http://www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/before_after/medicarefraudltr.cfm

Example #2: FDA drug warning label (click link)

http://www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/before_after/overctrdrug.pdf

Example #3: IRS form (click links)

Before: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/before_after/CP2000_before.pdf

After: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/before_after/CP2000_after.pdf

Congratulations to Congressman Braley, Joe Kimble, Annetta Cheek, and the Center for Plain Language for their support of this helpful legislation.  Click here for more information from the Center for Plain Language.

Click here to read the text of the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Hat tip to Clarity.

(mew)

The Legal Blog Watch has flagged this post and written more about the Plain Writing Act of 2010.  Click here for a look.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2010/11/plain-writing-act-of-2010.html

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Comments

The push for clear government writing has been gaining momentum for quite awhile, but the passage of the legislation at this time is especially interesting. For many segments of the American public are becoming disenchanted with their government and are starting to demand accountability; this may help.

They had hoped it would come with the Obama administration but ironically his signing of this document may be one of the few areas in which he's truly exercised accountability and transparency. Otherwise, Bush and Obama, and to a lesser extent their predecessors, have all contributed to a bureaucratizing of American government that is weighing so heavily that Americans are coming to the breaking point.

Words are power. And when the governors can manipulate the words, it is they, not the governed, who have the power. The Plain Writing Act can move that power where it rightfully, Constitutionally, belongs: with the People.

I've been pushing for use of editing software for government documents (see www.stylewriterforgovernment.com), and your readers may also find interesting my discussions at the Honest Government blog (www.conservativewords.com). I commend you for your defense of Law!

Posted by: Irwin Berent | Nov 29, 2010 8:27:34 AM

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