Plain Writing and Clear Communications
Our promise to you: Writing you can understand
We at the Department of Health and Human Services are committed to writing all of our new documents in plain language, starting October 2011.
Our goal is to use plain language in any document that:
- Is necessary for obtaining any of our benefits or services or for filing taxes
- Provides information about any of our benefits or services
- Explains how to comply with a requirement that we administer or enforce
You can learn more about plain language in the government at www.plainlanguage.gov.
You can review “before” and “after” comparisons to see the difference plain language can make to a document.
Many of the examples are from www.plainlanguage.gov/examples, where you can find additional examples.
Why we make this promise
While we’ve been believers in plain language for a long time, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires all federal agencies to write "clear government communication that the public can understand and use" by October 13, 2011. President Obama also emphasized the importance of "transparency, public participation, and collaboration" in his January 21, 2009, Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. Clear writing is essential to transparency, public participation, and collaboration.
Our agencies already use plain language
Our operating agencies already use plain language and train employees in the importance of clear communication. More efforts are underway to make sure communications are simple, direct, and understood by the people they serve.
The Department’s Plain Writing Act Compliance reports provide an overview of our implementation efforts to date:
- June 2014 Plain Writing Act Compliance Report (PDF - 140KB)
- April 2013 Plain Writing Act Compliance Report (PDF - 176KB)
- April 2012 Plain Writing Act Compliance Report (PDF - 223KB)
You can review the Department’s Plain Writing Implementation Plan here (PDF - 92KB).
Let us know how we’re doing
You can help us to meet our plain language goals by letting us know when we fall short. If you have trouble understanding any documents or material on our websites, please send an email to the Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Executive Secretary and Plain Writing Coordinator Oliver Potts, or Senior Policy Coordinator and Deputy Plain Writing Coordinator Hannah Moore, at PlainLanguage@hhs.gov. You can also reach agency plain writing coordinators by e-mailing PlainLanguage@hhs.gov. Coordinators across the Department include:
ACL-Administration for Community Living
AHRQ-Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
ASA-Assistant Secretary for Administration
ASFR-Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources
ASL-Assistant Secretary for Legislation
ASPR-Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
CDC-Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
CMS-Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
DAB-Departmental Appeals Board
FDA-Food & Drug Administration
HRSA-Health Resources and Services Administration
IEA-Intergovernmental and External Affairs
NIH-National Institutes of Health
Marin Pearson Allen
OASH-Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
OCR-Office for Civil Rights
OGA-Office of Global Affairs
OIG-Office of the Inspector General
OMHA-Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals
ONC-National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
SAMHSA-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Content last reviewed on January 2, 2015