Did you know that Congress passed an Act entitled The Plain Writing Act of 2010?
All government agencies that release any documents to the public must write in clear language. Fancy that! It required an Act of Congress to get government agencies to start allowing the public, which it serves, to be able to understand the rules we are required to live by!
As I read through the White House Memorandum, I was struck by how much this law mirrors the training I do in the Expository Domain of Write from the Beginning and Beyond for ELEMENTARY and MIDDLE SCHOOL students. Very early in the training I speak off this slide:
So let’s take this one branch at a time…
- Clarity: The White House Memorandum states: “Avoiding vagueness and unnecessary complexity makes it easier for the members of the public to understand and to apply for important benefits and services for which they are eligible (2010).”
- Logical Progression: According to the Federal Plain Language Guidelines: “Organization is key.” There are sections on “Organizing to meet your readers’ needs” and “How to organize chronologically (2011).”
- Conciseness: According to the Guidelines the writers must: “Eliminate filler and unnecessary content.”
- Precise Word Choice: The White House Memorandum states: “Such writing avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity, and obscurity.”
This is what we are teaching our elementary students! According to the Associated Press article “Plain Language Law Off To A Spotty Start” most agencies are not scoring well on their “report card.” When scored on “living up to the spirit of the law with ambitious training, tracking progress and other activities” the Labor Department, Transportation, EPA, and the VA Department received an “F.”, Defense, Homeland Security and Justice got a “D,” and only two earned a “B.”
Looks to me like the Federal Government needs to sign up for a Write from the Beginning & Beyond Training! I’ve got one coming up soon, do you think I should give them a call?