Government Jargon

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Federal Government Language - Jargon

What is the primary audience for your piece?
My audience is federal employees.

In no more than 3 sentences, what is the central message you want to communicate to readers in this piece? The phrases and words used in government writing are confusing and some documents are too long. Using plain language will communicate clear, concise, and easy to understand to those seeking assistance or instructions.

What aspects of your final project do you feel are the strongest? The examples, the history, and articles written support the use of plain language is the strongest aspects.

With more time (and motivation), what would you further revise about this piece? I would include more interviews with government workers and the population who has completed or read a government document or form. Actual forms and documents could be added as well.

What was most rewarding about completing this writing project—in other words, what are you taking away from this experience? Since, I will be revising one of the processes used in the VA Medical Center where I work; this project has given me more insight into changing the wording of the instructions and forms that would be attached to the government regulation and policy.

An employee complains about a confusing question on an unemployment form. A citizen asks questions about information on a job announcement. A government employee does not understand a standard operation policy. Government documents are confusing and hard to read. Utilizing the plain language approach will eliminate the jargon that is common in government documents. It is imperative that these documents communicate understandable information to the reader.

After World War II, awareness of the need to make government documents clearer was expressed by many federal employees such as John O'Hayre who recommended plain language in government documents. His book entitled Gobbledygook Has Gotta Go pinpointed the confusing language used by the government.

Warren Buffet summed up plain language marvelously in a “writing tip” in the introduction to the 1998 SEC Plain English Handbook. He stated to write with a specific person in mind, "when writing the Berkshire Hathaway annual report, I picture my sisters, highly intelligent but not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is to give the information I would wish to receive if our positions were reversed" (Locke).

Implementation of plain language was advocated by a number of US Presidents, in the 1970s President Nixon decreed in writing "that the Federal Register be written in "layman's terms," in 1978 President Carter issued orders "to make government regulations cost-effective and easy-to-understand." President Clinton, in 1998 "revived plain language as a major government initiative" (Locke).

"The current administration does not have a formal plain language initiative; however, a mandate for communicating clearly with the public is part of the Strategic Plan in a number of federal departments and agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is home to the leader of the US Government's plain-language movement. There are monthly meetings of the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN). Every member of PLAIN is working to ensure that the information written by federal employees is in plain language. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) realize that low health literacy combined with the increasing incidence of chronic health problems like diabetes and obesity results in a serious public health problem. To fight these problems most effectively, they know it is more important than ever to use plain language, so consumers get information that is clear, informative, and effective in helping them improve or maintain their health" (Locke).

It is important for the Federal Government to understand that plain language has been...
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