This month’s Plain Language of Community Practice meeting featured Katherine Spivey’s presentation, Plain Language Spectrum: Every Step Counts! In this highly useful DigitalGov University (DGU) webinar, she explains how you can move forward with plain language even when you don’t have permission to edit copy, followed by a half hour Q & A session. Many people don’t get plain language (also known as plain communication or plain writing) right the very first time, but through practice, can gain clarity and improve their plain language skills.
Plain Writing Act Of 2010
Deep down we’ve always known that people only read a small portion of any content shared online. In many ways that can’t be fixed but there are ways to help people read more or at least scan better. There was a book I loved as a child that featured the Sesame Street character Grover, titled The Monster at the End of this Book, where Grover keeps warning the reader to stop turning pages because there is going to be a scary monster at the end.
If good content is essential to good user experience, as Tyrus Manuel proposes in his November 23, 2015, DigitalGov post, then plain language is also part of good user experience. Plain language helps the public do what they need to do—find forms, apply for benefits, look up information and more—when they use federal websites and other digital tools. All federal agencies are supposed to implement the Plain Writing Actplain-writing-act-of-2010/), the law that requires plain language when we communicate with the public.
Let’s see–you want to improve the skills of your agency’s writers. Here’s a to-do list: Enlist a high-level champion, ideally your agency head, to make statements saying writing skills are critical—check. Create a Writing Style Guide—check. Hold classes to introduce the Style Guide—check. Expand internal editing resources—check. But what’s next? If you really want to move to the next level, try what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) did in 2015—create a comprehensive writing curriculum, tailored to your agency, with customized classes for a broad range of staff and managers.
Plain language will make you a better writer. For federal employees, it’s also the law. On September 9th, Katherine Spivey, Co-Chair of the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), presented a webinar on plain writing principles and how to apply them to Web writing. She also addressed how federal writers can comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. For Spivey, plain language comes down to one simple question.
I don’t know about your agency. But most agencies are going forward with plans to implement millennial asset paradigm shifts. It’s time that we became uber-efficient with our interactive modular matrix approaches. We need a more blue-sky approach to homogenized modular options and functional reciprocal concepts. Our exploratory research points to systemized logistical time-phases. I say unequivocally that it’s time to revamp and reboot our logistical innovation. You’re either scratching your head over that first paragraph, trying to figure out what it means, or laughing out loud at how ridiculous it sounds, full of jargon, clichés, overly complicated words.