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Fed Plain Language Guidelines

Fed Plain Language Guidelines

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Published by online4428
Obama signed the Plain Writing Act last fall after decades of effort by a cadre of passionate grammarians in the civil service to jettison the jargon. This PDF shows the new guidelines which take effect Oct. 2011.
Obama signed the Plain Writing Act last fall after decades of effort by a cadre of passionate grammarians in the civil service to jettison the jargon. This PDF shows the new guidelines which take effect Oct. 2011.

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Published by: online4428 on May 19, 2011
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08/05/2013

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Remember that even though your document may affect a thousand or a million people,
you are speaking to the one person who is reading it. When your writing reflects this,
it’s more economical and has a greater impact.

Singular nouns and verbs prevent confusion about whether a requirement applies to
individual users or to groups. In the following example, the user might think that each
applicant must file applications at several offices.

Confusing plural

Clearer singular

Individuals and organizations
wishing to apply must file
applications with the appropriate
offices in a timely manner.

You must apply at least 30 days before you
need the certification.

a. If you are an individual, apply at the
State office in the State where you
reside.
b. If you are an organization, apply at the
State office in the State where your
headquarters is located.

In addressing a single person, you can avoid awkwardness by using “you” to address
the user directly, rather than using “he or she” or “his or her.”

Confusing plural

Clearer singular

The applicant must provide his or her
mailing address and his or her
identification number.

You must provide your mailing address and
identification number.

Sources

Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p.
114.
Murawski, Thomas A., Writing Readable Regulations, 1999, Carolina Academic Press Durham, NC,
p. 70.
Wydick, Richard, Plain English for Lawyers, 5th edition, 2005, Carolina Academic Press, Durham,
NC, p. 62.

Federal Plain Language Guidelines, December 2010

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