Congress Passes Bill to Force Government Agencies to Use Plain Language in Public Documents

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Jargon needs to go, says Congress, which adopted legislation this week requiring the federal government to use clear language in public documents.
Sponsored in the Senate by Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), the Plain Writing Act gives federal agencies one year to revise written communications shared with the public so they can be easily understood. Akaka called the measure a “common-sense reform,” while Voinovich argued the use of jargon costs Americans to spend 7.6 billion hours a year trying to understand tax forms and instructions, forcing many to pay for help to file their taxes.
The House of Representatives had passed a similar bill on March 17, even though 33 Republicans voted against it. On Wednesday, the House agreed to the Senate version of the bill.
Among the changes plain language advocates are hoping for are replacing “prioritize” with “rank,” “effect modifications” with “make changes,” and “in the event of” with “if.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Lawmakers' Message Loud and Clear on Jargon (by Norah Swanson, Government Executive)
Replacing Government-Speak with Clear Words (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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