Support Passage of the Plain Writing Act 2010

Beginning in 2005, the Center for Plain Language worked to educate members of Congress about the need to enact plain language legislation. In 2010, Congress passed the Plain Writing Act and the President signed it on October 13 – International Plain Language Day. The Act states that Government agencies must use plain language in any document that is necessary for obtaining a federal benefit or service.

Benchmark Plain Language Performance with Federal Report Cards – since 2012

Since 2012, the Center for Plain Language has issued Federal Report Cards to judge federal agencies’ compliance with the Plain Writing Act. The report card benchmarks Plain Language programs across the US Federal Government. They also give agencies guidance (and a nudge) on how to improve In January 2015, the agencies with the highest scores were Homeland Security, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Social Security Administration.

Give ClearMark Awards for Best Plain Language– since 2010

Since 2010, the Center for Plain Language has sponsored the ClearMark Awards to honor the best plain language efforts by government, non-profit groups, and private-sector companies. In 2015, the Center expanded the Awards to include Spanish language documents. Since 2010, the Center has recognized nearly 200 documents, websites, and multimedia as finalists for the ClearMark Awards. Winners of the Grand ClearMark include:

  • Healthwise, Boise, Idaho – Conversation on Dealing with Lower Back Pain – 2010
  • Internal Revenue Service, Washington, DC – Additional Child Tax Credit -2011
  • National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC – National Assessment of Educational Programs – 2012
  • March of Dimes, New York – Thinking about Your Family Health History -2013
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington, DC – Loan Estimate – 2014
  • Suburban Hospital, Bethesda, MD – My Get Well kit (English, Grand ClearMark) – 2015
  • Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC – Cobradores de deuda (Spanish, Grand ClearMark) – 2015

Give WonderMark Awards for Worst Plain Language– since 2010

Since 2010, the Center for Plain Language has elicited nominations for the WonderMark Awards to spotlight some of the worst plain language efforts by government, non-profit groups, and private-sector companies. To encourage winners of this not so-coveted award, the Center also hosts a TurnAround Award for improvements to the winning documents. The Center has recognized two entities with TurnAround Awards: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority for the rewrite of its Emergency Evacuation instructions and Chase Bank for the rewrite of its credit card terms and conditions.

Teamed with Time.com to rank privacy policies from ridiculous to readable – September 2015

The Center for Plain Language teamed with Time magazine to identify companies with the best and worst privacy policies. We looked at seven companies’ privacy policies, using a combination of expert judges and Acrolynx, an algorithm-based writing-assessment tool. These methods allowed us to identify the strengths and weaknesses with both higher-order concerns and lower-order concerns and to rank the companies.

Provide Annual Workshops on Plain Language Skills

Each year, the Center for Plain Language hosts workshops to improve the skills of plain language practitioners and advocates. Topics range broadly including case studies of company projects, information design skills and applications, typography basics, qualitative testing methods, basics of plain language, and many others.

Host the Plain International Conference 2005

The Center for Plain Language hosted the international PLAIN conference in 2005 in Washington, DC. The Plain Language Association INternational (PLAIN) is an association for plain language advocates from around the world. More than 300 people attended workshops and plenary sessions. Participants came from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and other countries.

Host the Clarity Conference 2012

The Center for Plain Language hosted the international Clarity conference in 2012. Clarity is the international plain language association for lawyers. More than 150 people attended workshops and plenary sessions. Participants came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, and other countries.

Connect Consultants and Companies

The Center for Plain Language connects plain language experts with companies who want plain language services. In 2015, over 1,400 queries have resulted in a variety of projects to improve company documents, websites, and multimedia.

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