The Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2007 was introduced in the US House of Representatives on 17 September. This is a lovely short, clear, comprehensible bill. It aims:
To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing plain language as the standard style for Government documents issued to the public, and for other purposes.
Federal agencies would be required to use [tag]plain language[/tag] in new documents within one year of the [tag]Act[/tag] being passed. Documents covered by the Act are any document that explains how to obtain a benefit or service or that is relevant to obtaining that benefit or service. That's a lot of documents, and a lot of web pages!
And how will this be achieved? Through training.
If passed, the Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2007 will give federal agencies 6 months to report on their plan to:
- communicate the requirements to their employees
- train employees to write in plain language, and
- ensure ongoing compliance.
I love this. The US government had already gone far towards requiring plain language in significant documents, and providing resources. Let's hope this Act does not get diluted en route.
The phrase plain language is deceptively simple. But plain language is easier said than done. Mass, ongoing training is vital. Every government employee who writes for work needs this training. How obvious is that?
My webinar next week for GSA Web Manager University is called "Transforming web content with plain language". You see, the crucial skills for writing web content are based on the good old plain language rules. Those rules never go out of date. You just need to look at them from a different angle.
This kind of training may soon be mandatory for many federal agency employees. That will provide another sort of rebuttal to those who still say, "I'm not going to dumb down my brilliant, intellectual, technical 250-word sentences for anyone!" The new answer could be, "Shut up and do it! It's the law."
Search Thomas for Plain Language in Government Communications Act
Plainlanguage.gov, US Government's plain language site
Webcontent.gov, Guide to managing U.S. Government websites
Web Manager University: Rachel's webinar