The Plain Writing Act of 2010 is Just as Important Today

Category: Articles
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 02-09-2023 07:24 AM
Views: 754
Synopsis: Learn about the legal obligations of the Plain Writing Act and how it will help serve citizens.

When it was signed into law by President Obama on October 13, 2010, the Plain Writing Act changed the ways that federal agencies and governing bodies were required to communicate with the public. Historically, sifting through official documents and policies could be confusing for the average person; filled with jargon, complex words, and hard-to-read sentences, federal agencies were not creating an environment of transparency and service to the public.


“Plain writing” means that documents or written communications must use writing that is clear, concise, and organized. The law, which can be found here, was created to “improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public.” Since 2010, Federal agencies have had ample time to adopt the requirements of this law, but it is critical that, as the law ages, its principles are not forgotten or neglected.


Breaking Down the Details


There’s a section of the law that defines specific features of the bill, detailing exactly who must abide by the law and what documents and written communications fall into its protections. Let’s review the specifics:


  • Agency

Any Executive agency that qualifies under section 105 of title 5 of United States Code.


  • Covered Document

A “covered document” is any document necessary for obtaining Federal Government benefits or services or filing taxes; any document that provides information about a Federal benefit or service; or, any document that explains how to comply with the Federal Government.


  • Plain Writing

As listed above, plain writing must be “clear, concise, well-organized, and follow other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.


Initial Rollout


Federal agencies were required to update employee guidance, provide training to their entire organization, and develop an oversight process to ensure the law’s guidance was followed. Then, an entire infrastructure had to be put in place surrounding this law. Citizens needed to be able to access information about the requirements, a point of contact had to be determined within every Federal agency, and the agency websites had to have information about the law.


The Plain Writing Act Today


Just as was the case over a decade ago, Federal agencies today are still required to follow the requirements outlined in the Plain Writing Act. An annual compliance report is required, and a review process is in place. Although there are no fines or legal repercussions that entities face if they are found out of compliance, the annual compliance report helps ensure alignment and adherence across agencies.


This is a basic way that the Federal Government serves its citizens; by ensuring that government documents, notices, and informational sources are all understandable, the Government empowers people to understand what’s happening around them, become more active citizens, and collaborate with people to build a better future. There is no reason private citizens should feel as if the entities that were put in place to serve them are not being transparent, and the Plain Writing Act maintains a desired dynamic between the Government and US citizens.

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