Citizenship and Immigration Services “Wins” Poor Writing Award

Friday, April 19, 2013

Federal officials have earned a dubious award for a poorly written FAQ on an agency website that does little to help immigrants make sense of U.S. immigration policy.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received a WonderMark Award, which is given out by the Center for Plain Language to those producing “the least usable documents.”


Specifically, USCIS was acknowledged for information contained in its “About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” FAQ.


The Center noted that the FAQ’s intended audience was people “who don’t speak English as their first language AND it involves children. The tone indicates that the writer does not see the reader as a person. This is written in such bureaucratic style that someone who was born and raised in this country may not recognize this as English.”


Here is a sample of USCIS’s awarding-winning FAQ:


What is deferred action?

A1: Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. For purposes of future inadmissibility based upon unlawful presence, an individual whose case has been deferred is not considered to be unlawfully present during the period in which deferred action is in effect. An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect. However, deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, nor does it excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

2013 WonderMark Awards (Center for Plain Language)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Frequently Asked Questions

New Law Forces Health Insurance Companies to Use Plain Language to Explain Policies (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Congress Passes Bill to Force Government Agencies to Use Plain Language in Public Documents (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Replacing Government-Speak with Clear Words—U.S. Edition by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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