Plain Writing Act of 2010

Original Text

Effective Dates
10/13/2010 - Present

Reform Goals
“To improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” 

Requirements (What of whom?)
Per the title, the act requires agencies to use plain writing in certain “covered documents” going forward, including 1) forms necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes; 2) those which provide information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or 3) those which explain to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces. Writing must be “clear, concise, and well-organized.” Agencies must create annual reports on the status of their compliance with the act.

Oversight for rule compliance
Each agency head is to delegate oversight over compliance with the Plain Writing Act to one or more senior officials within the agency. 

Reform “Teeth”
The Act does not apply to regulations and specifically bars judicial review of violations. Appointment of a senior official to oversee compliance only entails that agencies submit the name of that official to the OMB. 

Many agencies have failed to comply with the reporting requirements, and those which have issued compliance reports are riddled with passive language (violating the central principle of the act)! [1] From the 2013 PWA report card, overall agency progress in using plain writing has been sadly lackluster. [2]

As the Plain Writing Act excludes regulations, it is unlikely to have an impact on regulatory compliance costs or the time required for individuals and businesses to read through regulations.


  1. Stabler, Rachel. “What We’ve Got Here is Failure to Communicate: The Plain Writing Act of 2010.” Journal of Legislation, Vol. 40, 2014. Link , PDF
  2. Center for Plain Language. "2013 Federal Plain Language Report Card." 2013 Link