The U.S. government is on a plain language campaign. This isn’t the first; several decrees have gone out, dating back at least to the Civil War, suggesting, pleading and even demanding that those in government use plain language. Now, thanks to the Plain Writing Act of 2010, it is law.
But what is plain writing, and what does it cover? The Act defines such terms:
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) AGENCY.—The term ‘‘agency’’ means an Executive
agency, as defined under section 105 of title 5, United States Code.
(2) COVERED DOCUMENT.—The term ‘‘covered document’’— (A) means any document that—
(i) is necessary for obtaining any Federal Govern- ment benefit or service or filing taxes;
(ii) provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or
(iii) explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces;
(B) includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a
letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction; and (C) does not include a regulation.
(3) PLAIN WRITING.—The term ‘‘plain writing’’ means writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.
That seems plain enough, almost. But not as plain as this:
It would be harder to get plainer.