A History of Plain Language in Government Communications

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (.pdf) on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

On January 18, 2011, President Obama issued a new Executive Order, “E.O. 13563 – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review. (.pdf). It states that “[our regulatory system] must ensure that regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand.”

Two other executive orders signed by President Clinton in 1996 cover the use of plain language in regulations: E.O. 12866 (.pdf) and E.O. 12988 (.pdf).

The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a community of federal employees dedicated to the idea that citizens deserve clear communications from government. In the 1990s they started giving examples for Federal plain language guidelines. This evolved into the website. For information about, see their About Us page.

Download's Federal Plain Language Guidelines (.pdf) or Word.

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The Web Diva for the Accessible Techcomm website since 2012. Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication. STC member since June 1979. A founder and former webmaster for the STC Special Needs Committee, which became the STC AccessAbility SIG (2001-2011).