Plain Writing Act Compliance Report for 2019
In 2019, the Department’s various components have continued to implement the requirements of the Plain Writing Act by writing and revising documents intended for the public to be more clear, concise, meaningful and well-organized.
The Department’s law enforcement bureaus and offices, boards and divisions vary considerably in their missions and structures; therefore, the Department has continued to rely on each component’s leadership to determine which of their documents comply with the Act, or need to be revised, as well as which employees need Plain Language training.
In a continued reflection of the diverse and decentralized process employed by the Department in implementing the Act, here is a sample of Plain Writing activities from a number of components.
The following public documents that are widely used are continuously reviewed and adjusted with updates, as needed, to a Plain Language format:
- Public Workshop on Competition in Labor Markets
- Public Roundtable Discussion Series on Regulation & Antitrust Law
- Public Roundtable on Criminal Antitrust Compliance
- Division Manual
- Judgment Termination Initiative
- Photo Gallery captions
- Paramount Consent Decrees comment solicitation
- Task Force: Electric Energy Market Competition
- Guidelines and Policy Statements
- Economic Analysis Group Papers
- Competition and Real Estate
- Business Resources
- Employment Opportunities for Paralegals
- Employment Opportunities for Attorneys
- Report Violations
Antitrust Division Staff provide plain language content on third party systems:
Division Staff Training
Antitrust Division staff attended the Plain Language Summit 2019.
The Antitrust Division strives to provide disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others by providing 508 descriptions written in plain language. In 2019 Antitrust Division has two DHS certified trusted testers version 5.
Environment and Natural Resources Division
In 2019, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) overhauled the About the Division portion of its public-facing website. Using Plain Language Act principles, ENRD consolidated nearly a dozen pages of content into a single concisely-written landing page. As an additional usability improvement, all ten of the Divisions Section-specific websites are now provided as navigation links for easier access.
In March of 2019, ENRD held a virtual “Plain Language Week” where each day tips were posted to its Intranet homepage on how the workforce can communicate in ways that make content easier for the public to read, understand, and use government information.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employs 508 compliance testing, peer review, editing, and web analytics to ensure the use of Plain Writing in our written communications to the public. These communications include the FBI’s external website and subdomains, social media platforms, and various printed products.
An internal user guide describes Plain Writing standards and requirements in detail for FBI communications personnel, including the need to avoid government jargon and to use concise and conversational writing on the web. Public affairs staff rely on the guide to edit and vet website and other written content for Plain Writing compliance.
FBI staff have also developed and delivered trainings on best practices, frequent challenges or pitfalls, and other strategies for improving Plain Writing compliance, including through social media use, content development, and storytelling for public audiences.
Two FBI web content managers attended the 2019 National Association of Government Web Professionals conference. They attended several classes related to Plain Writing, including the requirements of Plain Writing; writing better, faster, and more effectively; writing that puts the reader first; and usability for government websites. The FBI also hosted a Plain Language training session from plainlanguage.gov to deliver the Principles of Plain Language to 15 employees.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission
The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has created several decision templates to support its adjudication of claims under the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. These templates have been designed to provide a plainly written, consistent, and concise decision to each claimant.
Office of Attorney Recruitment & Management
The Office of Attorney Recruitment & Management (OARM) annually reviews its website and all recruitment materials, presentations, and trainings, to ensure information is easy to understand and navigate. In addition, in 2019, we:
- updated the Legal Careers and the Attorney Student Loan repayment websites and forms,
- created and implemented a standard volunteer legal intern/extern agreement for consistency with placement agreements used across the Department, and
- edited and streamlined the online application for the Attorney General’s Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program.
Office of the Pardon Attorney
The Office of the Pardon Attorney has continued to mandate Plain Writing Act training for all onboarding attorneys. We have also solicited office-wide comments regarding ways to improve the Frequently Asked Questions page of our public-facing website, and to streamline the content of our form letters, which are submitted to those that apply for clemency and members of the public.
Office on Violence Against Women
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has engaged in efforts to comply with the Plain Writing Act. OVW revised the standard formula grant program and discretionary solicitation templates to reduce duplication, increase the use of consistent terminology and avoid jargon, and improve the layout and design. OVW staff use these templates when drafting the fiscal year solicitations and customize the final solicitations with relevant, specific information for each grant program. OVW also revised the Solicitation Companion Guide to avoid duplication, reorganize information and utilize links to the OVW website. Last May, OVW staff presented a power point training on the principles of plain writing at an OVW staff meeting.
United States Trustee Program
The United States Trustee Program edited internal reports and articles for publication to comply with plain writing principles.