Rolling with Report Cards

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 in Center News, Government

2014 REPORT CARDThe Federal Report Card process for 2015 is underway! Agencies are preparing their submissions for the Center’s review. This relatively new service by the Center (since 2012) continues to evolve, and this year we are making a couple of changes to the process.

First, we are reviewing two types of documents, one selected by the Center and the other selected by the agency:

  1. The equivalent of each agency’s “About Us” page accessible from its main headquarters landing page.
  2. One or two public notices, selected by the agency. For this purpose we are defining “notice” broadly to include any official, public-facing document that provides some kind of guidance or information needed by the intended audience. We prefer that the document have “notice” in the title, but we will accept others.

Compliance Reports

In addition, we will continue to evaluate each agency’s efforts to comply with the Plain Writing Act. This year we will look not only at recent strides but any plans the agency shares for implementing plain writing—or improving on their programs–in the coming year.


Documents and compliance reports are due by August 3. We plan to return to announcing the results on (or near) October 13, the anniversary of the Plain Writing Act. Last year’s January release was a delay due to some administrative changes.

Review and Criteria for Evaluation

This year we plan to add human readers to the review process while still also using the computer program Acrolinx, as we did last year. Though it takes more people-power, we hope to gain a dimension of subjectivity in the review that echoes the subjectivity inherent in any real-life document’s context.

We are also tweaking the review criteria to closely match that of our ClearMark awards. The people reviewing the documents will use the following criteria to assess their clarity and overall effectiveness:

  • Audience understanding
  • Writing style and clarity
  • Structure and navigation
  • Presentation, InfoGraphics, and visuals (This will be a separate grade, as it was last year.)
  • User testing (as described in submissions)
  • Manner and voice

The Acrolinx program will assess actual sentence-level style elements.

Submission method

Another change is that we are collecting the documents using Submittable, the website we use for ClearMark submissions. If you are submitting something, please provide it both as a PDF and a Word document. You will also have a space to describe each document’s audience, purpose, and context so that the graders can judge them accordingly.


Chip Crane photoFeel free to contact Chip Crane, the Center’s lead on the report card, at either of the following email addresses: