Plain Writing Act of 2010

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires the federal government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner that follows the best practices of plain language writing.

Current Status

  • October 13, 2011 – Documents covered by this law must be written in plain language
  • July 13, 2011 – Agencies required to have plans for plain language in place
  • October 13, 2010 – Law signed

Implementing the Act

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issues “Final Guidance for the Plain Writing Act of 2010” (PDF) on April 13, 2010. This document reviews the requirements of the Act, and how agencies will meet those requirements.

Highlights of the Law

The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.

It defines plain language as

The term `plain writing’ means writing that the intended audience can readily understand and use because that writing is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain writing.

It covers any document that

  • is necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes;
  • provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or
  • explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces;
  • includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction; and
  • does not include a regulation.

It requires:

Beginning not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, each agency shall use plain writing in every covered document of the agency that the agency issues or substantially revises.

More about this law

Timeline

  • October 11, 2011 – Documents covered by this law must be written in plain language
  • July 13, 2011 – Agencies required to have plans for plain language in place
  • April 13, 2011 – OMB issues “Final Guidance for the Plain Writing Act of 2010” (PDF)
  • March, 2011 – PLAIN issues updated  “Federal Plain Language Guidelines
  • November 22, 2010 – OMB Issues “Preliminary Guidance for the Plain Writing Act of 2010” (PDF)
  • October 13, 2010 – H.R. 946, the “Plain Writing Act of 2010″ signed by President Obama
  • October 1, 2010 – Revisions approved in the House
  • September 28, 2010 – HR 946 passes the Senate by unanimous consent
  • March 17, 2010 – HR 946 passes the House, 386 to 33
  • March 11, 2009 – S.574 introduced in the Senate sponsored by Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and 6 co-sponsors
  • February 10, 2009 – HR 946 introduced in the House sponsored by Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and 10 co-sponsors
  • April 15, 2008 – HR 3548 Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2007 passes the House 376 to 1 (This bill was  never voted on in the Senate, and died at the end of the 110th Congress in January 2009)

Center for Plain Language (centerforplainlanguage.org)

http://centerforplainlanguage.org/resources/plain-writing-laws/plain-writing-act-of-2010/

Printed April 21, 2014

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