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2015 Report Card

Federal Plain Language Report Card

This year the Center is taking a slightly different direction with our annual assessment of government writing: We are grading forms. Or should I say “We are grading Forms!!”—yes, this is exciting! (I don’t imagine, however, that all of the government agencies are as excited about this direction as we are at the Center).

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gobbledygook blog photo

Trimmed gobbledygook

What exactly is gobbledygook? The dictionary definition is “language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usually hard to understand.”

(Is it just me? Or is it ironic that a dictionary definition of gobbledygook includes an obscure 5-syllable word (circumlocution) that could just as easily have been “wordiness?” Just thinking…)

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Positive Language

Positive language makes our brains happier

As plain language experts, we often tell clients to use positive language. Even when explaining a negative situation, we recommend using as few negative words as possible. Many of us use this guidelines based on marketing strategies. However, we now have science to back us up.

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Signature

To sign or not to sign … The “Informed” Consent dilemma

In the late 1990s my doctor suggested I head over to the local academic medical center where a research project was underway to discover the genes associated with my autoimmune condition. That’s when I came face-to-face with my first consent form and the inevitable tradeoff patients make when presented with pages of gobbledygook punctuated by a signature line: either sacrifice understanding in the name of contributing to the greater good, or politely decline.

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Twitter click here 508

How and why to use descriptive link language

You’d think that people would know better by now than to use “Click here” for links. It’s not like they haven’t been told.

But I still see it on all the sites, all the time–commercial, entertainment, news, and–even considering Section 508–government sites of all kinds, federal, state, and city.

So I’m taking this opportunity to show you why it’s wrong.

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