On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Act). The Act requires agencies to communicate in a manner “that the public can understand and use.” The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is committed to improving the agency’s communications with the public and has begun work to ensure that CPSC can fulfill this important mandate. This report outlines the agency’s initial plan to comply with the Act’s requirements.
Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing
CPSC has designated Eileen J. Williams, Attorney and Legal Editor in the Office of the General Counsel, to oversee the agency’s implementation of the Plain Writing Act and any related guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Agency Documents Covered by the Act
The Act applies to any documents published by federal agencies that:
- are necessary to obtain a benefit or service from the federal government;
- provide information about a benefit or service from the federal government; or
- explain how to comply with requirements that the federal government administers or enforces.
Given the broad definition of what the Act covers, CPSC believes that the Plain Writing Act pertains to the majority of the agency’s documents. Accordingly, the CPSC intends to apply the Act’s requirements to all of the agency’s written communications with the public. These include:
- staff recommendation reports to the Commission;
- submission guidelines for project/program applicants;
- agency-produced plans, studies, and reports;
- official letters to the public and/or other government agencies;
- data-collection instruments (such as surveys, comment, and feedback forms);
- Website content and publications; and
- all other communications relating to agency activities and events, as appropriate.
CPSC’s plan for successfully implementing the requirements of the Plain Writing Act involves the following actions:
- Communicate to all CPSC employees the Plain Writing Act’s requirements and the Act’s importance in helping the agency provide better service to the agency’s customers.
- Provide training in plain writing techniques to all agency employees who create written communications intended for the public.
- Direct supervisors to include an evaluation of plain writing in their standard review of written communications.
- Designate and support an agency staff member to provide plain writing assistance to staff when requested or required.
- Review and approve agency documents to help ensure compliance with the Plain Writing Act.
- Create a Plain Writing Section on the agency website and encourage the public to provide feedback on the CPSC’s performance regarding plain writing.
- Provide regular and ongoing opportunities for plain writing training.
Because many CPSC staff members create documents intended for the public as part of their duties, the agency is providing training for these employees. CPSC has scheduled two, 3-hour on-site training sessions in January and February 2014, through the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN). The first session will be recorded and made available to existing and new employees for review and reference. The recordings can be used by off-site employees and others to meet the training requirement. In addition, the agency plans to offer supplemental plain writing training for staff members who write as a critical part of their job. For example, CPSC’s designated staff point person attended a webinar: Mastering Business Writing, which covered the Plain Writing Act and Best Practices, in May 2011. In addition, the Legal Editor will participate in a Train the Trainer Boot Camp and be available to conduct PLAIN language training at the agency.
The public can access our plain writing website at www.cpsc.gov/plainlanguage.
We have instituted the following processes:
- At least one plain writing-related training will be offered each calendar year for staff.
- Supervisors are encouraged to provide staff recognition for excellence or improvement in plain writing techniques.
- We will track the comments we receive from the public regarding the agency’s written communications.