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President signs 'plain language' bill into law

October 21, 2010

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Government agencies now will have to provide written documents in easy-to-understand "plain language," according to legislation signed into law last week by President Barack Obama.

The Plain Writing Act (H.R. 946) requires federal agencies to write new publications, forms and other publically distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner. The law does not apply to regulations.

The Plain Language Action and Information Network, a group of federal employees from various agencies, provides several examples on how documents written with complicated or wordy language can be simplified, such as:

  • Before: "When the process of freeing a vehicle that has been stuck results in ruts or holes, the operator will fill the rut or hole created by such activity before removing the vehicle from the immediate area."
  • After: "If you make a hole while freeing a stuck vehicle, you must fill the hole before you drive away."

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