DOD discourages using acronyms

Defense Department memo instructs officials to reduce acronym use

Defense Department Executive Secretary Michael Bruhn is tired of playing the acronym game and wants to limit the use of short-form titles in the department immediately, Federal News Radio reported.

“Many acronyms have multiple meanings and are not always well-known outside a particular organization,” wrote Bruhn in a Nov. 30 memo on Wonkette.com.

“Although using acronyms in written material is intended to make writing clearer, their misuse or abuse does the exact opposite,” the letter continued.


Related story:

OMB issues preliminary guidance on Plain Language Act


If written correspondence prepared for DOD has acronyms, he said a glossary of terms should be included at the end of the materials.

Particular attention should be given to Read-Aheads and slide presentations, Bruhn wrote.

This latest action parallels the Plain Writing Act of 2010 signed into law by President Barack Obama in October.  It's intended to make it easier for the public to understand documents that are not often written with the layperson in mind. 

The law is designed to promote “clear government communication that the public can understand and use,” according to a Nov. 5 memo sent by the Office of Management and Budget to the heads of executive departments and agencies.

Transparency, public participation and collaboration cannot easily occur without plain language, the guidance said.

Plain writing, the memorandum continued, can reduce costs by:

  • Reducing questions from the public to agency staff members.
  • Improving compliance with regulations. 
  • Reducing resources spent on enforcement.
  • Cutting errors on forms and applications.
  • Reducing time spent addressing errors.

A guidance for implementing the act will be developed by April 2011.

According to plainlanguage.gov, a website agencies can reference to help them develop new guidelines, the public's misunderstanding of documents could lead to pricey litigation in some cases.

The current and most successful effort to spread the use of plain language started in the mid-1990s in several agencies, the website indicates. A group of government employees, the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) began meeting in 1995 to try to spread the use of plain language.

In November, PLAIN members were designated to be the official working group to help agencies develop guidance to meet the new law, said Federal News Radio.

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.

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