One year after Plain Language Act, agencies still have 'long way to go'

Thursday - 10/13/2011, 4:41pm EDT

Annetta Cheek, chairperson, Center for Plain Language

Download mp3

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

One year after President Obama signed the Plain Language Act, agencies still have "a very long way to go."

In an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose, Annetta Cheek, the chair of the Center for Plain Language, said what government still needs is a "major culture change."

"That's the way people think government should write and they're just stuck there," she said.

The Plain Language Act directed each agency to use plain writing in every document that it issued or revised.

Some agencies — like the Internal Revenue Service, Health and Human Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — have made inroads in clearer writing. And generally there has been a trend toward fewer convoluted, passive sentences, Cheek said.

In these pressing budget times, plain language can help with agencies' bottom lines.

"It's an ongoing battle to get people to understand that when you write clearly, not only is it better customer service, you're going to have better results for the agency, you're going to have fewer people calling you, you're going have fewer errors, you're going to have better compliance," Cheek said.