Each year, the Center for Plain Language evaluates how well federal agencies comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In 2016 we graded each department in two categories:

  • Compliance – Does the Department fulfill the administrative requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010?
  • Writing & Information Design – Do writing samples consistently demonstrate plain writing principles (for example, clear style and organization and effective visual elements) to make documents easier to read and understand?

The report card benchmarks Plain Language programs across the US Federal Government. The grades also give agencies guidance (and a nudge) on how to improve.

Agencies that do well receive a letter of commendation from Congressman Dave Loebsack. Agencies that do poorly receive strong encouragement to do better the following year.


Highlights for 2016

Highest scores: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Health and Human Services, and Labor
Most improved: State and Defense
Lowest score: Justice

  • We evaluated 26 forms and their instructions submitted by 18 participating agencies.
  • Last year’s lowest scoring agencies showed the greatest improvement this year.
  • More agencies improved than declined…with some surprising shifts in both directions.
  • A record number of agencies scored B or higher with only one agency earning a C. For the second year in a row, no agency earned a D or F.
  • We did not grade Compliance this year, only documents; read the full report to find out why.

More information about the 2016 Federal Report Card.

Download the complete 2016 Federal Plain Language Report Card: Report Card pdf file | White paper


Highest scores: Agriculture, Homeland Security, National Archives, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, and Veterans Affairs
Most Improved: Interior
Lowest Scores: State and Transportation
More information about the 2015 Report Card

Download the white paper (Includes examples of bad government writing).


Highest scores: Homeland Security, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Social Security Administration
Most improved: Homeland Security
Lowest scores: Education, Interior and State still fail to comply with the basic requirements of the Plain Language Act of 2010
More information about the 2014 Report Card

Download the white paper (Includes examples of bad government writing).


Highest score: Social Security Administration
Most improved: Veterans Affairs
Lowest score: Tie – Treasury and Housing and Urban Development
View the 2013 Report Card


Highest score: Department of Agriculture
Lowest score: Veterans Affairs
View the 2012 Report Card


Get involved

Analysis for the Report Card happens between April and October. To get involved, contact Chip Crane