Each year, the Center for Plain Language evaluates how well federal agencies comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In 2015 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 2015


Highest scores: Agriculture, Homeland Security, National Archives, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, and Veterans Affairs
Most Improved: Interior
Lowest Scores: State and Transportation

Writing & Information Design

Highest score: Social Security Administration
Most improved: Department of Education
Lowest scores: Defense and State

A general trend of improvement

  • Participation in the report card reached an all-time high: 23 agencies submitted materials for review, including all 15 cabinet-level departments.
  • All 23 agencies fulfilled the requirements of the Act. For the first time, no agency received a D, F, or Incomplete.
  • In Writing & Information Design, 13 agencies improved while only 5 lowered their grades.[1]
  • Compliance grades also increased overall: 8 agencies improved while 4 others dropped.
  • A record number of agencies scored B or higher.

More information about the 2015 Federal Report Card.

Download the complete 2015 Federal Plain Language Report Card: Report Card pdf file | High Resolution image | White paper

2015 Report Card

[1] Compared with the category “Writing” last year. We combined last year’s Writing and Information Design categories into a single one: Writing & Information Design.


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