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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:

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:

 

Office

Name

ACL-Administration for Community Living

Carol Crecy

AHRQ-Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality

Randie Siegel

ASA-Assistant Secretary for Administration

Trina Greer

ASFR-Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources

Pam Sessoms

ASL-Assistant Secretary for Legislation

Fatima Cuevas

ASPR-Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Ben Goldhaber

CDC-Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Cynthia Baur

CMS-Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Mary Wallace

DAB-Departmental Appeals Board

Christopher Randolph

FDA-Food & Drug Administration

Kathy Weil

HRSA-Health Resources and Services Administration

Judy Andrew

IEA-Intergovernmental and External Affairs

Nikki Bratcher-Bowman

NIH-National Institutes of Health

Marin Pearson Allen

OASH-Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

Linda Harris

OCR-Office for Civil Rights

Steven Novy

OGA-Office of Global Affairs

Mary Pokryfki

OIG-Office of the Inspector General

Rose Folsom

OMHA-Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals

Randy Vanderpool

ONC-National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

Lisa Lewis

SAMHSA-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Marla Hendriksson

How Are We Doing?