Average Grade on Writing Quality Slips on Plain Language Report Card

The average agency grade on writing quality slipped from a B- to C in the latest scorecard from the Center for Plain Language, although within that average seven of the 21 agencies rated saw an improvement in their overall writing grade. The report card produces separate grades for organizational compliance—staffing, training, and reporting requirements under the Plain Language Act—and writing quality—ease of finding, understanding, and using information presented, particularly on the FOIA request and “Contact Us” pages on agency websites. Agriculture and SSA received As on writing quality, with DHS, EPA and State each receiving an A-; Commerce, DoD, HUD, Justice, Treasury and SEC, however, received Fs. The report said that the lower-scoring Contact Us pages, “did not provide a straightforward, concise path for members of the public to get in touch. To fix these pages, agencies should establish a user-focused approach to their web content, navigation, and design.” The lower-scoring FOIA requests suffered from “extraneous information and legal language,” and those agencies “need to lay out a clear path for making a FOIA request, and cut out jargon and acronyms.” Grades for compliance overall were higher, with 12 receiving an A+ and two an A-, although Agriculture, Commerce, HUD, Transportation and Treasury received Fs. Primer: Early out, buyout, reduction in force (RIF)

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