What Federal Agencies Need to Know About Plain Language
Simple, direct, and understandable, plain language engages and informs your audience.
Communications experts know this, and the law requires federal agencies to use it.
The Plain Language Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to
follow the Federal Plain Language Guidelines;
follow implementation guidance from the Office of Management and Budget; and
have a plain writing section on their websites.
Federal guidelines offer recommendations for identifying your audience and their needs, organizing information, and keeping writing simple and clean.
You can take courses in plain language to become an expert, but you can start practicing some simple plain language techniques today.
Use headings. Headings and subheadings help your reader navigate your webpage or document.
Avoid jargon. Jargon is business talk that is not used in regular conversations. You might recognize police jargon used on your favorite cop show or journalism jargon in movies about newspapers. Your profession probably has its own language, and you might feel reluctant to eliminate it from your writing. Remember that plain language is about including people in the conversation, while jargon excludes people not familiar with your industry.
Simplify. Keep sentences short. Avoid redundancy. Use bullet lists or numbered lists to organize information and make it easy to read. Consider using bold or italic font styles to emphasize information.
Keep it conversational. Write to your reader. Using "you" engages your reader and keeps the tone conversational. Read your writing aloud to identify areas that are confusing or difficult to read.
Start using a few plain language techniques in your writing and see how your communication improves. You might also consider hiring professional help. As experts in plain language, QIP's writers and editors help clients develop professional, quality documents, infographics, and web copy that adhere to federal guidelines.