Department of Commerce PLAIN Language

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Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires agencies to write documents for the public that are easy to understand and use. We must use plain language in any document that—is necessary for obtaining any federal government benefit or service or filing taxes; provides information about any federal government benefit or service; or explains to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces.

This plan describes how the Department of Commerce will continue to comply with the Plain Writing Act.  We’re committed to open government, transparency, and customer service—which we can’t provide if the public can’t easily understand what we say. Plain language is central to improving customer service and putting our customers first.

We invite public comment on our plan. Please send comments to plainlanguage@doc.gov.

Because we’re dedicated to the letter and the spirit of the Plain Writing Act, the Commerce Department’s efforts will go beyond compliance. We will use existing resources and support the plain language community, particularly the Plain Language Information and Action Network (PLAIN).

I. Designate senior agency official for plain writing and coordinators

The Act requires us to “designate 1 or more agency points-of-contact to receive and respond to public input on (i) agency implementation of this Act; and (ii) the agency reports required under section 5.”

Madhura Valverde, Director of Executive Secretariat, is the senior agency official for plain writing. She will ensure the plan’s implementation. Contact her at plainlanguage@doc.gov.
Parker Sheedy is the Plain Language launcher, coordinating the plain language implementation program. Contact him at 202-482-3315 or plainlanguage@doc.gov.

II. Describe the agency communications released by your office that follow the Plain Writing guidelines

We write all new or substantially revised relevant documents—including web pages—in plain language. As recommended by the Office of Management and Budget, we will follow the Federal Plain Language Guidelines and this plain language checklist. We will strive to produce most documents in plain writing, including those not covered by the Plain Writing Act, while considering the types of documents and how many people use them.

III. Inform agency staff of the Plain Writing Act’s requirements

The law states that agencies must “communicate the requirements of this Act to the employees of the agency”. To comply, we are planning to do, or have already done, the following:

Post information at www.doc.gov/plainlanguage, linked from Commerce’s home page
Post information on the agency’s intranet
Send an email message to all employees from the Secretary or other Commerce leader
Brief the senior management team
Brief the chiefs of staffs and the training managers of all Commerce bureaus

IV. Train staff  

We will continue to encourage Commerce bureaus to require plain language training for their staff.  PLAIN trainers or private vendors have taught workshops within the bureaus and the Secretary’s office. Workshops and refresher courses are available upon request.

V. Continue compliance and sustain change

Our strategy ensures that we’re complying with the Act. We will

Continuously train current employees
Train new employees at new employee orientations
Encourage our contractors to take plain language training
Create new forms, policies, and procedures in plain language
Review existing documents for plain language
Rewrite the most visited pages on Commerce.gov in plain language and measure performance,  by monitoring feedback emails

Changing our writing culture will require hard work; employees will need to acquire new skills and abandon ingrained writing habits. With training, senior-level encouragement, and customer service feedback, we expect to meet our performance goals.

VI. Create department’s plain writing website

Commerce’s plain language webpage is www.commerce.gov/plain-language. Contact us at plainlanguage@doc.gov if you have trouble understanding any Commerce web pages or documents. We will respond to you within three business days.

VII. Evaluate customer success after implementing plain language plan

We’re exploring the best way to measure our plain language progress. We’ll revise this document to include our specific performance goals. Possibilities include—

Publish before-and-after examples to show benefits of plain language improvements
Initiate new feedback/rating feature on www.commerce.gov and regularly publish results and agency response 

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Last updated: 2015-03-13 18:10

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