Agencies using plain language = progress

plain languageFrustration over bureaucratic complications is, without a doubt, one of the fundamental challenges we face as we work to build support for public systems. Often, agencies themselves add to this challenge by overcomplicating their public descriptions of what they do. That’s why we were thrilled to read in Govexec magazine about the work of the Center for Plain Language, an organization helping public agencies to stop using bureaucratic speak.

Started by government employees and plain language consultants who are tired of overcomplicated and confusing information from government, the Center for Plain Language encourages agencies to produce simple, clear and concise information.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earned the center’s highest award this year for its Loan Estimate Form.

“When a government agency such as CFPB turns two long, head-scratching forms into one that’s shorter, clearer and easier to use, the Center for Plain Language rejoices,” said Annetta L. Cheek, chairwoman of the center’s board of directors. “The testing that went into this redesign—both before and after—is impressive, and shows in the results.

On the flip side the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s consent decree was cited as the worst example of public communication. And if you discover a government agency using “gobbledygook,” as they put it, you can expose it by filling out their on-line form.

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