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Plain Language

Plain language (also called Plain English or lay language) is communication that your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others.

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 [PDF - 124 KB] Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  on October 13, 2010. The law requires federal agencies to use "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." The Act imposes several requirements on federal agencies:

  • Write all new or substantially revised "covered documents" in plain writing
  • The Act specifies that "covered documents" are those that:
  • are necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service, or filing taxes;
  • provide information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or
  • explain to the public how to comply with a requirement that the Federal Government administers or enforces.

The Act requires agencies to use plain writing in every paper or electronic letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction. While regulations are exempt, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs encourages plain writing in the preambles of regulations.

Learn more about plain language: