How many of you work in organizations that have plain language policies? If you work for a federal executive branch agency, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires you to use plain language in public communication. The law says that federal agencies must train their staff in plain language and report annually on plain language practices and products.
You can find information on CDC’s plain language practices and read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ first annual report on plain language. At CDC, we train staff who create and clear public communication products in plain language. You can comment on the agency’s use of plain language through our toll-free public information number, 1-800-CDC-INFO.
The Plain Writing Act positions federal agencies to serve as leaders and role models for plain language. Last week, I wrote about the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations. Several attributes rely on plain language as a technique for clear communication. The large-scale training and monitoring processes that federal agencies are putting in place may help other organizations see how they can do something similar.
Plain language will not solve all the miscommunication that occurs in health. But, plain language policies bring attention to the issue and help clear away the verbal clutter that confuses, distracts and bogs down health communication. Plain language policies can be important catalysts for organizational change.
Please post your comments about plain language policies in your organization. If you have plain language policies, are they working? What are your successes and ongoing obstacles? If you don’t have a policy, what do you need to help create a policy?