In 2021, 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.
Progress on Internal Division Documents
To help promote a culture of Plain Writing, we are continuing to review frequently used division directives, memos, and announcements for conversion to a Plain Language format. The following Division documents have been revised and posted internally to familiarize staff with the Plain Language form of writing:
Examples of 2021 Daily Intranet announcements in Plain Language:
- Urgent System Messages
- Cybersecurity Alerts
- Security and Computer Alerts
- Weekly Maintenance Messages
- New Announcement section
- Wrote or copyedited about 25 announcements
Intranet content the web team authored or edited:
- Issues of Interest
- Criminal Presentation
- Office of Operations Responsibilities
- Web Services Section Office page
- Virtual Collaboration Tools page
- Microsoft Teams page
- Offices and Employees organization
- Diversity Page
Progress on Internet Website Compliance
The following public documents that are widely used are continuously reviewed and adjusted with updates, as needed, to a Plain Language format:
- Banking Merger Public Comments Solicitation
- Report Violations: Decree Enforcement and Compliance Unit
- Contact Information
- Report Violations
- Information for Victims of Large Cases
- Division Outreach Events
- FOIA Library
- Procurement Collusion Strike Force
- Photo Gallery captions
Antitrust Division Staff provide plain language content on third party systems:
Division Staff Training
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 2021 Antitrust Division has two DHS certified trusted testers version 5. Division Web Services Section staff attended Plain Writing Language training provided by the Department in July 2021.
Civil Rights Division
In 2021, the Civil Rights Division (CRT) provided Plain Language training both to the Civil Rights Division and to the Department at large.
During 2021, CRT had a plain language specialist on detail from the Administrative Office of the Courts, and also procured the services of a communications strategy team from GSA’s 18F digital consultancy. With these additional resources, CRT was able to provide two plain language trainings to CRT staff. The first part focused on principles of plain language, and the second session addressed Voice, Tone, and Accessibility. Both were widely attended and received positive reviews. In addition, we developed a playbook for content contributors to learn to create, update, and manage content for CRT’s intranet website, and a guide for writing user-centered content. The guide provides actionable, step-by-step advice for how to consistently, plan, create, and deliver clear, targeted, and useful content for the public.
Working with the Office of Legal Education to host the session on their widely available WebEx platform, the CRT Plain Language detailee also did three webinars for the entire department. These sessions addressed Plain Language, Editing for Supervisors, and Email Etiquette. Each webinar attracted more than 150 participants from across the Department and other federal agencies.
Environment and Natural Resources Division
In 2021, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) continued its commitment to Plain Language Act principles while maintaining its public website. Several staff members attended the department-sponsored Plain Language Act training, and one attended the Plain Language: Accessibility for Content seminar hosted by Digital.gov and the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) Community of Practice. ENRD continues to mature its accessibility and human-centered design programs, including Plain Language capabilities, throughout the web content and software development lifecycle.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission
The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) began to revise its website to make sure the content is clear and easily understood. In addition, FCSC has continued its practice of using decision templates to support the 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.
National Institute of Corrections
The National Institute of Corrections conducts periodic plain language reviews of all content, including webpages, training materials, and print and electronic publications. Staff receive ongoing support for implementation of the Plain Writing Act by means of editorial services and training. Most recently, training topics included writing for the Web, writing for online learning, scriptwriting, and communicating effectively with e-mail.
Office of the Pardon Attorney
In 2021, the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Pardon) has taken several steps to ensure our compliance with the Plain Writing Act. Notably, Pardon has continued to train any staff joining the office on the principles of plain writing. Further, Pardon has rewritten a number of the “Frequently Asked Questions” on its public-facing website to make the material more readable and user-friendly. Finally, Pardon has continued to explore ways to make other portions of our website user-friendly and to incorporate visual aids at appropriate points, in anticipation of greater technological capability in the upcoming year.
Office of Public Affairs
In 2021, the Office of Public Affairs (PAO) organized department-wide training from a PlainLanguage.gov instructor which covered plain language techniques for websites.
Office of Justice Programs
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
In 2021, BJS staff from several agency units attended the Plain Language training in July hosted by OPA and distributed the materials and resources to staff not in attendance. Staff from the BJS Publications and Dissemination Unit attended the American Copy Editors Society conference on April 22-23. There were many courses offered, and several included plain language training and principles. On October 13-14, agency staff participated in a course with Graduate School USA titled “Writing for Results”, which emphasized plain language principles.
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
NIJ published an updated NIJ Style Guide in June 2021 - https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250404.pdf. The guide is shared with staff and contract authors and stresses the requirement for plain language throughout. NIJ has made significant progress in shifting to person-first language. All publications released beginning September 2021 use person first language. NIJ continues to review and edit as necessary, pages on both NIJ.ojp.gov and CrimeSolutions.ojp.gov. To date, hundreds of pages have been updated to use person-first language.
Office of Communications
The OJP Office of Communications continues to review communication products before being released to the public, to provide edits and guidance related to meeting Plain Language Writing Act of 2010 requirements and federal plain language guidelines.
United States Marshals Service
The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) creates, reviews, and edits web content to comply with Plain Writing Act guidelines.