How Government Agencies Benefit from Plain Writing
The following article, published by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), explains why the NRC considers clear writing so important to its mission, and the article is itself a sterling example of plain writing.
“We regulate, license, and oversee the Nation’s civilian use of nuclear materials to protect both people and the environment. Because this mission is so important, we want you to be informed about—and have a reasonable opportunity to participate meaningfully in—our activities. We see plain writing as a key to achieving that goal. After all, how can you become informed and involved if you don’t understand what we say and write? More importantly, why should you trust us to achieve our mission if we can’t clearly communicate important concepts?
Why Plain Writing Matters
Every day, NRC managers and staff make decisions that ultimately affect the health and safety of people and the environment. We know that if we fail to effectively communicate these decisions, we complicate our mission and compromise public confidence. We also know you’re as busy as we are, and you don’t want to waste a lot of time ‘translating’ complex, jargon-filled documents. Plain writing is good public service and makes life easier for all of us.
It isn’t easy to explain complex technical concepts in plain language, but it pays off in positive results like increased public confidence, licensee compliance, and enhanced safety and security.
What Plain Writing Is . . . and Isn’t
The Office of Management and Budget states that “plain writing is writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and consistent with other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience. Such writing avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity, and obscurity.”
The NRC takes that definition a step further. We believe that plain writing is communication our intended audience can easily understand the first time they read or hear it. It’s not overly casual or unprofessional, and it doesn’t strip out necessary technical details to ‘dumb down’ the information or ‘talk down’ to the reader. We know we’ve succeeded if our writing enables our intended audience to 1) find what they need, 2) understand what they find, and 3) use what they find to meet their needs.”
- A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
- Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”.
- John Lennon’s first girlfriend was named Thelma Pickles.
- Al Capone’s business card said he was a used furniture dealer.
- Who was the first villain Superman faced when he made his movie debut in 1948: Atom Man, Spider Lady, Lex Luthor, Yellow Mask?
Word of the Month
ignominious | \ig-nuh-MIN-ee-us\ | adjective
1: marked or characterized by disgrace or shame, dishonorable; 2: despicable, humiliating, degrading
“Keith was given the ignominious task of cleaning up the conference room after the company Christmas party.”
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as
“His ____ prior experience notwithstanding, Pat was judged by the hiring manager to be ____ for the job.”
- illustrious : entitled to
- applicable : assured of
- limited : qualified for
- useful : overqualified for
- irrelevant : perplexed by
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
The word dollar originated in what is now the Czech Republic. In 1519, a silver mine near the town of Joachimstal (literally “Joachim’s valley,” from the German tal, meaning valley) began minting a silver coin called the Joachimstaler. The coin became better known by its clipped form, the taler. In Dutch and Low German, the initial consonant softened to become daler. English adopted this form, eventually changing its spelling to the modern dollar.
Dr. Kevin Ryan's business-writing book is available on Amazon.com and qualifies for free shipping.
Answer: limited : qualified for
Difficulty: 58% of the 19,914 people who answered this question online chose the correct answer.
Fun Facts Answer
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