DOT's Commitment to Plain Language and Statutory Report
The term “plain language” means writing that is clear, concise, well-organized and follows other best practices that are appropriate to the subject and to the intended audience. Documents written in plain language are grammatically correct, logically organized, and simply presented. They provide a level of detail that is appropriate to the needs of the reader, without unnecessary jargon and overly technical language.
Plain writing reduces errors, increases efficiency, and saves money on the enforcement of laws and regulations. It improves public understanding of agency requirements and thereby assists the public in complying with them.
Plain writing is now the law. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires Federal agencies to write “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” Documents that are covered under the law are those that:
- are necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes;
- provide information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or
- explain to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces.
Covered documents (whether in paper or electronic form) include letters, publications, forms, notices, and instructions. Regulations are not covered.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation we strive, however, to communicate with our various audiences in such a way that all our written materials are easily understood the first time they are read. This includes Notices of Funding Availability, Notices of Proposed Rulemakings, Final Rulemakings, congressional reports, official correspondence, departmental blogs, social media, and material on our internal and external websites.
Plain Language Statutory Report
The Plain Writing Act of 2010 also requires the Department to publish, by July 13, 2011, on the plain writing section of the Department’s external website, an initial report that describes the Department’s plan for implementing the Act’s requirements. The required actions we have taken are as follows:
- Designate one or more senior officials for Plain Writing. The designated Senior Official for Plain Writing is Carol C. Darr, Director, Executive Secretariat. She is the point of contact for to receive and respond to public input. Assisting in DOT’s initiative as Plain Language Coordinators are Lisa F. Farmer, Eva Lee Ngai, Anika Hyatt and Brian Crewe.
- Establish a plain writing webpage. We have established plain writing sections on our external website and on our internal website. Our internal website, DOTnet, contains a number of resources for employees to help improve their writing skills, and links to online training.
- Communicate the Act’s requirements to Departmental employees and train departmental employees in plain writing. We have communicated these requirements on our internal website, DOTnet, and are making training courses available to our employees.
- Establish a process for overseeing ongoing compliance. The Executive Secretariat and the Office of the General Counsel are responsible for ensuring that covered documents are written in plain language.
You can help us meet our plain language requirements by letting us know when we fall short. If you have trouble understanding our documents or any of the material on our websites, please contact Carol Darr at PlainLanguage@dot.gov.