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Monday, April 22, 2013

A government must speak plainly to its people | U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley

As an advocate for clear, concise communication by our government--and by private and nonprofit organizations--I applaud these recent comments by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa.

Here are some excerpts I especially appreciated: 
Confusing language is frustrating. But beyond our frustration are real consequences if we misunderstand government documents and regulations. Confusing language leads to mistakes that have dramatic consequences for our health, our safety, and our financial security. Think what might happen if we don't understand changes in our mortgages, or if we're confused by Medicare prescription drug information, or if we don't have enough income taxes withheld from our paycheck.
Confusing government language also places a huge financial burden on individuals, businesses, and taxpayers. When we don't understand the letter we got explaining that our interest rates are going up or telling us what our new healthcare plan covers, we pick up the phone and call the help center. It takes labor, money, and time to fix problems created when people are confused. ...
There's a lot of disagreement in Washington about the scope of government - whether certain regulations or even whole agencies should even exist. But regardless of where you fall on the partisan spectrum, I think we can all agree that if a government regulation, rule, form, or document exists, it should be written in language that can be understood by the intended audience.
Fortunately, there's a movement building among good government groups and concerned Americans to reform the way the government communicates with American citizens. ...
The next frontier for reform is the Plain Regulations Act, legislation that would expand plain writing requirements to federal rules and regulations. Federal regulations are often the worst violators of plain writing best practices. On Tax Day, April 15th, I re-introduced this legislation. I'm hopeful that momentum exists to pass this common-sense proposal into law this year.

For more information ...

... about plain English/plain language, concise writing and global English, check out the resources I've listed at this section of Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. 

Those resources include links to plain language websites of federal, state and local government agencies in the United States and other countries. They also include links to organizations advocating for plain language and other websites and books about plain language. 

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