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Tips for starting a plain language program

Starting a plain language program can be challenging. But like most challenges, the reward will far outweigh the effort. The reward in this case is clear communication—an asset for any organization.

Getting started

As a first step, you’ll want to look at our training materials to get an idea of what you should cover:

Set SMART goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a timeframe.

  • Start with a clearly defined goal, and communicate your expectations to everyone involved in the effort.
  • Implement a training program so that the entire organization is on the same page.
  • Look for small successes and aim for continuous improvement—not rapid change.
  • Revise first those documents that have the biggest circulation and are the hardest to understand.
  • Post examples of clearly written documents on a website or home directory as a reference tool.
  • Evaluate your progress frequently and seek feedback. Adjust your course if necessary.
  • Designate “go to” people on your staff who are accessible and knowledgeable.
  • Make sure your top managers are plain language practitioners.
  • Encourage these managers to champion the process.

Follow plain language guidelines

Work with us

We can also help you work with one of our trained instructors to set up a course.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires agencies to train their staff in plain language. PLAIN offers free consultation to federal agencies on how to start an internal agency plain language program. We have previously worked with the National Institutes of Health, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Veterans Benefits Administration (to name a few). These agencies now have self-run, thriving plain language programs.

If you have any questions or need more help, contact us.