The federal government has long been accused of speaking its own language marked by its overly arcane, even inscrutable syntax.
But a new group working within the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with curbing the overly complex verbiage and getting the feds to speak in “plain language.”
In a memo, OMB released “preliminary guidelines,” Government Executive reports, for agencies to adopt plain language standards as mandated by the 2010 Plain Writing Act. Along with the guidelines and resources for agencies, the memo also spells out a clear definition for plain language.
“Plain writing is concise, simple, meaningful and well organized,” Cass Sunstein, director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote in the memo. “It avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity and obscurity. It does not contain unnecessary complexity.”
According to PlainLanguage.Gov, a government resource for agencies looking to create more clarity, plain language consists of “communication your reader can understand the first time they read or hear it.”
This is achieved by short sentences, active voice and the use of common, everyday words, the site says.
Sunstein, writing in the OMB memo, said plain writing “should be seen as an essential part of open government.” But, aside from that lofty goal, he also wrote that using plain language increases efficiency and reduce costs.
According to the plain language law signed by President Barack Obama in October, OMB must create more detailed guidelines by April 2011 and federal agencies must appoint overseers of the language initiatives by July 2011, according to a Gov Exec report.