Bureaucracy

Government Bureaucrats Still Unable to Write or Speak in Plain Language

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Government transparency

This week federal agencies are supposed to update Congress on progress made in implementing the Plain Writing Act, passed in 2010, which mandates that government documents be written in clear, plain language, not impenetrable legalese. The Washington Post reports federal agencies are a long way off from compliance.

Why? From the Post:  

[W]ith no penalty for inaction on the agencies' part, advocates worry that plain writing has fallen to the bottom of the to-do list, like many another unfunded mandate imposed by Congress. They say many agencies have heeded the 2010 law merely by appointing officials, creating working groups and setting up Web sites.

In Plain English, that means the law lacks the substance to prevent federal agencies from simply creating new bureaucracies to say they're in compliance with it, kind of like the "Paperwork Reduction Act" notice at the end of government forms.

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  1. They’re still trying to parse the PWA.

    1. Give ’em a chance. They only had 79 years to work on it!

  2. Maybe Congress should take some of its own advice. Or is “We need to pass it to find our whats in it” clear enough?

  3. [W]ith no penalty for inaction on the agencies’ part

    Hmmm, I wonder why this hasn’t worked. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  4. Bread and roses

    1. James Oppenheim’s fictional Wobblie slogan?

  5. In the event that federal bureaucratic agencies, henceforth in this comment to be known as the fuckers, affected by the Plain Writing Act, henceforth in this comment to be known as TP, cannot fulfill the duty, henceforth in this comment to be known as busy work, mandated to them by the United States Congress, henceforth in this comment to be known as the assholes, it is from this point stipulated that the above matter be cause for the electorate, henceforth to be known as the suckers, to bitch and moan to no avail as the assholes and the fuckers privately laugh at the suckers while publicly wringing their hands at the lack of progress on TP.

  6. In Plain English, that means the law lacks the substance to prevent federal agencies from simply creating new bureaucracies to say they’re in compliance with it, kind of like the “Paperwork Reduction Act” notice at the end of government forms.

    Woah, woah, slow down there, Einstein.

    1. Lookee here, ain’t no way this law can be forced.

  7. Plain English initiatives usually just result in documents that sound natural but still are impossible to understand.

    For example, the standard documents you’re faced with when buying/selling a house.

  8. They say many agencies have heeded the 2010 law merely by appointing officials, creating working groups and setting up Web sites.
    _________________________

    The beauracracy expands even further while accomplishing nothing. Our government in a nutshell.

  9. We need more government like this.

  10. Plain writing act?

    Herman Cain is getting a boner right about now.

  11. another unfunded mandate

    At least we’re not paying extra to get nothing in return.

  12. They should just assign each bureaucracy a word budget on their regulations, and declare that until they bring the number of regulations under-budget, no regulation is legally enforceable.

    1. Word budgets. I like that.

  13. Lawmakers writing to other lawmakers are certainly going to get caught up in their own jargon and language, but I always assumed that laws are written in legal-ese because a whole lot depends on those words. A law written in a shorter, “Plain English” (whatever that means) style might be more vulnerable to misinterpretation. I’m probably being naive though–it seems more likely that lawmakers are comfortable with legal-ese, that there’s an advantage to writing and voting for language that isn’t accessible to an average person’s understanding, and that more common, accessible language is perfectly capable of guarding against future misinterpretation(s).

  14. Absolutely support. There should be clear rules of etiquette and the boundaries of social norms, this was written in a special rubric as a review on Edusson. It is necessary to have regulated norms of writing, especially in the media. You can even enter a special bill.

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