OPM aims for clear writing

New plan details agency's implementation of Plain Writing Act of 2010

The Office of Personnel Management has released its first plan to use writing that's clear, to the point and easier for readers to comprehend.

OPM made its plan publicly available July 8. The plan details how the agency will implement the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which became law last October. The act is designed to “improve the effectiveness and accountability of federal agencies to the public by promoting clear government communication that the public can understand and use.” In other words, to make agencies more effective by getting them to write more clearly.


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Along with the plan, OPM has established a new website that will provide writing tips and information on efforts to improve public communication.

“We aren’t transparent if the public doesn’t understand what we say,” the plan states. “We are therefore fully committed to complying not only with the letter of the law, but also with its spirit.”

As an example, the following before-and-after comparison, taken from www.plainlanguage.gov, shows how federal agencies can use plain writing to enhance communication.

  • Before: When the process of freeing a vehicle that has been stuck results in ruts or holes, the operator will fill the rut or hole created by such activity before removing the vehicle from the immediate area.
  • After: If you make a hole while freeing a stuck vehicle, you must fill the hole before you drive away.

OPM said it has designated three officials to oversee its implementation of the new law, including Matthew Perry, the agency’s CIO. In addition, OPM employees will take the National Institutes of Health’s online course in plain language.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 Lee

I remember years ago my agency sent me to an english refresher class that taught how to write in active voice and to write brief, clear statements. I got back from the class and the very next document I wrote based on these rules was kicked back saying it wasn't long enough. Go figure.

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