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|House passes Braley Plain Language Act|
March 17, 2010
As part of
Sunshine Week, the House today passed Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) Plain Language Act (HR 946), which will require the federal
government to write documents, such as tax returns, federal college
aid applications, and Veterans Administration forms in simple,
easy-to-understand language. The bill passed the House by a widely
bipartisan margin of 386-33. Sunshine Week is a national initiative
to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and
freedom of information.
|Obama takes aim at credit card companies|
April 23, 2009
As part of a larger push on consumer finance issues and under mounting pressure from cash-strapped Americans, President Obama called in executives from 13 credit card companies to deliver a stern message: Crack down on the kinds of practices that the Federal Reserve has called "unfair" and "deceptive."
|State targets bureaucratese to improve communication|
January 06, 2008
If any government entity can confuse the public, it's the tax collectors.
That's why Gale Garriott, director of Arizona's Department of Revenue, was so intrigued when he heard tax collectors from Washington state raving about a program there that was making government easier to understand.
At a conference in late 2005, Garriott heard about Washington's "plain talk" initiative. The revenue department there claims to have collected millions more after rewriting confusing letters to taxpayers.
"I'm thinking 'Really? You just change words on paper and good things will happen?' " he recalls. Garriott began talking to Washington officials to find out more.
The plain-language movement has been around for decades, said Don Byrne, executive director of the Center for Plain Language. The Maryland-based non-profit advocates the use of plain language in government, law, business and health care. In the federal government, it geared up when Vice President Al Gore led a plain-language initiative. A handful of states now have plain-language requirements.
The goals are simple: Make documents understandable on the first read. Make them useful and easy to scan for information through better design, headings and bullets. Use language geared for the intended audience. Avoid jargon.
Improving government communication, Byrne said, can save money and help people comply with laws. In Washington, state officials hired consultants to help them rewrite government correspondence and train thousands of state employees in the principles of plain talk. After Garriott approached them, officials there agreed to send two Washington state employees to Arizona to share plain talk concepts with Garriott's staff.
Since then, a team within the Arizona Department of Revenue has identified about 400 form letters it would like to redo. So far, it has completed rewrites on about 100 of them, working to simplify, organize, shorten and make sure that they say what they are supposed to say in a way that doesn't require an accountant's interpretation.
|Measure keeps it simple: No more jargon|
May 18, 2007
Now hear this, Oregonians: Your state government has banned gobbledygook.
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