2013 Plain Writing Report Card

The Plain Language Report Card grades US federal agencies on how well they are meeting the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The Center released its first report card a year from the date when the first requirement of the Plain Writing Act went into effect–July 2011.  View the 2012 Plain Language Report Card here.

This year, the Center evaluated more departments and independent agencies. We gave them two grades – one for compliance with the basic requirements of the Plain Writing Act, and one based on our analysis of how well their documents adhered to plain language principles.

Compliance score: The highest score possible for the grade based on the requirements is 130. Specifically, we analyzed whether they:

  • appointed a senior official,
  • created an implementation plan
  • issued a compliance report,
  • created a plain language page on their website that links from their home page,
  • provided a mechanism for public feedback, and
  • responded to us when we wrote to them using their feedback mechanism.

How the scores were determined

Writing score: To get the writing score, the Center analyzed three documents each from two agencies within the departments, as well as from the independent agencies. We asked the agencies to provide the documents they wanted us to consider. If they didn’t provide any, we pulled material from their internet.

We analyzed each document using 6 measures of plain language from three different tools. The measures looked at word choice, writing style, and cohesiveness across the entire document.

Finally, as part of the writing score, we used several of the ClearMark Awards criteria (http://centerforplainlanguage.org/awards/criteria/) to evaluate structure and design attributes of the documents.

Reports for individual agencies

To download all of the compliance reports on the departments’ requirements under the Plain Writing Act of 2010 click here.

Federal Plain Language Report Card – 2013
 Download Reports Below

Compliance with the Plain Writing Act


Agriculture (USDA) A B
Commerce (DOC) B C
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) A C
Defense (DOD) B D
Energy (DOE) D B
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) F C
General Services (GSA) B D
Health & Human Services (HHS) A B
Homeland Security (DHS) F C
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) F D
Interior (DOI) B D
Justice (DOJ) D D
Labor (DOL) C F
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) D D
Small Business Administration (SBA) A D
Social Security Administration (SSA) A A
Transportation (DOT) A C
Treasury F D
Veterans Affairs (VA) C D

Center for Plain Language (centerforplainlanguage.org)


Printed April 21, 2014


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