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Plain Writing Act Compliance Report, April 13, 2012

We at the Federal Communications Commission are committed to producing public documents that are clear, concise, well-organized and follow other best practices in keeping with guidance from the Office of Management and Budget. This report outlines our progress in implementing the Plain Writing Act of 2010 during the past year.

I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing:
Howard Parnell, chief of the Web and Print Publishing Division in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB), is the senior official for plain writing at the Federal Communications Commission. In addition to leading consumer-focused publishing for CGB, he is also a member of the cross-agency New Media team developing FCC.gov, MyFCC and FCC mobile.

Following our initial compliance report in October 2011, a Plain Writing Advisory Group drawing from bureaus and offices across the agency was established to help oversee ongoing compliance with the act. The committee's tasks include communicating plain writing requirements to their bureau and office colleagues and advising on editorial style guidelines, document review processes and compliance reports such as this one.

II. Using Plain Language
Specific documents made available in formats consistent with plain writing guidelines include, but are not limited to:

  • FCC.gov and MyFCC web pages, including approximately 100 FCC topics describing our work, scores of FCC Encyclopedia entries and special projects such as the Small Biz Cyber Planner and the Digital Textbook Playbook.
  • Consumer Publications Library: The Web and Print Publishing Division conducted a review of CGB’s Consumer Publications Library, consisting of approximately 175 consumer guides and factsheets. Documents were edited for plain language and updated with new information as needed. The bureau has also undertaken revising scripts for responding to consumer complaints and inquires to insure plain language compliance.
  • Documents that are necessary for obtaining a federal government benefit or service, that provide information about any federal government benefit or service, or that explain to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces.
III. Communication Requirements We have communicated the requirements of the Plain Writing Act to document creators, editors and other staff members in a variety of ways. Among them:
  • All FCC staff were informed of the requirements of the Plain Writing Act as of July 13, 2011, by internal communication from the chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
  • Approximately 880 staff members were briefed on requirements and expectations as part of training in the summer and fall of 2011.
  • Requirements and expectations will be discussed with participants during training sessions scheduled in 2012.
  • Plain Writing Advisory Group members communicate requirements and expectations to document creators and editors in their respective bureaus and offices.
IV. Training
Three one-day training sessions are offered for 2012. The course is mandatory for employees who prepare documents covered by the Plain Writing Act and who have not taken the course previously. Employees who wish to improve their writing skills but who are not required to take the course are welcome to attend on a space-available basis.

V. Ongoing Compliance
A number of activities in bureaus and offices throughout the agency support ongoing compliance and sustaining change. These include:

  • Development of individual bureau review processes to implement plain language directives on all updated and new documents on the FCC website.
  • Periodic reminders to staff at division meetings regarding plain writing requirements, including discussion of identified problems.
  • Initial review of work product by project team leaders or first-level division management.
  • Document reviews by division chiefs or designated deputies.
  • Regular consultation between front office and division management identifying any persistent problems.
  • Development of bureau style guides consistent with plain writing principles.
  • Revisions of document templates to conform with plain writing goals.
VI. Website: Plain Writing at the FCC

VII. Customer Outreach and Satisfaction

We promote our efforts and solicit feedback via social media, using Facebook and Twitter. Approximately 4,000 Facebook users were reached in two recent campaigns. Meanwhile, a series of Consumer Protection Weekl tweets about our plaiin writing efforts and the Consumer Publications Library attracted more than 4,000 clicks.

We also welcome suggestions and other input via email and message boards:

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