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2017 Federal Plain Language Report Card: Writing Scores Drop!
Friday, October 13, 2017

Center for Plain Language issues grades to government agencies

WASHINGTON, Oct.13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Plain Language has issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card grading government agencies on how well they communicate with the public. The Center evaluated 21 agencies: the 15 cabinet agencies and 6 others. Overall the writing grades show a significant decrease from last year, including two "D+" grades. In the last two years, no agency has scored lower than a C.

The annual evaluation, announced by Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), grades federal government agencies on their adherence to the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The yearly Federal Plain Language Report Card shows how well the agencies are doing, giving grades from A to F on writing & information design. This year the Center evaluated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and infographics from each agency.

"This year's Federal Plain Language Report Card shows that while some progress has been made, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure federal agencies are more clearly communicating with the public," said Congressman Dave Loebsack. "I am pleased that the Center for Plain Language has expanded its reach and is now evaluating different parts of the agencies' websites, such as FAQ pages and infographics. I have long been a vocal supporter of simplifying the way Americans receive information from their government and improving transparency, which is why I will continue to push to ensure communicating in plain language becomes a higher priority for federal agencies."

View the 2017 report card and criteria for the grades.

This year the Center is emphasizing the importance of clear visuals as well as writing. Two separate grades were assigned. One grade is for writing (including organization and general information design of text) and the other for a data infographic. "We knew that this latter category would especially pose a challenge for some agencies, said Chip Crane, PhD, Center Board Member and lead on the report, "but communicating clearly through graphics and associated text is as much a part of plain language as a traditional paragraph."

"The Center looked at how government agencies handle ordinary routine information (Frequently Asked Questions) and the less ordinary presentation (infographics) that they provide to consumers," said Susan Kleimann, PhD, Center for Plain Language Chair. "We know that FAQs often receive very little attention in terms of design and making sure that the information is clear. Infographics are a wonderful way to help consumers visualize information and see its importance, yet infographics are notoriously hard to do well. We hope this years evaluation will allow agencies to improve on both of these areas."

The Center for Plain Language, a non-profit organization, supports those who use plain language, trains those who should use plain language, and urges people to demand plain language in all the documents they receive, read, and use. For more information:

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SOURCE The Center for Plain Language

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