On the event of Annetta’s “retirement”

In honor of the retirement of Annetta L. Cheek, PhD, Board Chair and co-founder of the Center for Plain Language, an American flag will fly over the U.S. Capitol today. The Center is a nonprofit organization that advocates for clear language in government, business, nonprofits and universities.

The testimonial reads: “As she steps down from her role as Chair of the Center for Plain Language.  In recognition of her work the last two decades, as the heart, soul, and animating force behind the Federal government’s plain language movement.”

Dr. Cheek co-founded the Center for Plain language in 2003 with a group of plain language colleagues. The group was interested in extending plain language advocacy beyond the Washington, D.C. beltway.

In her tenure as Board Chair, Dr. Cheek worked tirelessly to make plain language part of U.S. law. She also taught, mentored, and encouraged countless people into writing better, thinking more strategically, and working harder to advocate for plain language.

On behalf of the Center, Dr. Cheek led and collaborated on initiatives that:

  • Established the ClearMark Awards to recognize good writing and theWonderMark Awards to call out bad writing
  • Worked with U.S. House of Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) to pass the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama
  • Developed the annual Plain Writing Act Report Card measuring federal agency compliance with the Plain Writing Act. Since the report card gets a lot of media attention, agencies are motivated to get good grades
  • Collaborated with other plain language organizations to co-host larger, stronger conferences around the world, including PLAIN 2005 and Clarity 2012 and
  • Presented and authored countless talks and papers, including co-authoring the International Plain Language Working Group’s Definition of Plain Language.

“Annetta has used her wit, charm and irresistible force to encourage plain language use in government, business, nonprofits and universities for 20 years,” said Joanne Locke, a co-founder and board member of the Center’ “She leaves a legacy to not only the U.S. plain language movement, but within the global movement as well. She will be deeply and profoundly missed by all in the plain language movement.”


What people are saying  …

Annetta was always the driving force, and when I say driving force, I mean just that. She was relentless, and she got results, as we all know. I think it’s fair to say that nobody has done more to promote plain language—at least in the United States—than Annetta Cheek.~ Joe Kimble
Conventional wisdom says that no one is indispensable, but conventional wisdom hasn’t heard of Annetta Cheek. … Starting with nothing, she has charmed, animated, cajoled – yes, maybe even bamboozled – all kinds of people into realizing that this is a vital cause.
~ John Strylowski
I wonder how a force of nature retires?
~ Melodee Mercer


Have something to add?

Please leave thoughts and comments about Annetta and her contribution to Plain Language in the US and around the world below.


  1. Ingrid Sapona
    June 29, 2014

    Thank you for blazing a trail for all Plain Language advocates and — more importantly – thank you on behalf of all the people who have benefitted (and who will benefit) from having more information in plain language.

    All the best in your retirement!

  2. Nick Wright
    June 30, 2014


    Annetta has been wonderful in promoting plain language. Without her energy, commitment and drive, the US plain language movement would have made little progress.

    She is also a personal friend. Loyal, fun and interesting. She took me under her wing when I visited Washington.

    I’m sure Annetta will enjoy retirement, but I suspect she’ll still be a force in plain language for years to come.

    Nick Wright

  3. Kim Sydow Campbell
    June 30, 2014

    I’m smiling as I envision that American flag flying over the U.S. Capitol today. Thank you, Annetta, for all you have done to promote effective written communication! Your legacy will live on.