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Rosanna's Plain Language Prezi

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Daniel Cariello

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of Rosanna's Plain Language Prezi

Rosanna Torres
Managing Effective Communications
Editing for Plain Language

Why Plain Language?
Let's Recap
It's the law!
Statistics from surveys are subject to sampling and non-sampling error. All comparisons presented in this report have taken sampling error into account and are statistically significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted. This means the 90-percent confidence interval for the difference between the estimates being compared does not include zero. Non-sampling errors in surveys may be attributed to a variety of sources, such as how the survey is designed, how respondents interpret questions, how able and willing respondents are to provide correct answers, and how accurately the answers are coded and classified. The U.S. Census Bureau employs quality control procedures throughout the production process, including the overall design of surveys, the wording of questions, the review of the work of interviewers and coders, and the statistical review of reports to minimize these errors.
Comprehension Test
The Big Picture
A Picture Can Tell 1,000 Stories
Big Picture
Plain Language Team @ Census
10 Steps to Plain Language
Audience and Purpose
Choosing the Right Medium
Short Sentences and Paragraphs
The Importance of Design:
Headings, Lists and Bullets
and Grammar
Active Voice Passive Voice
Spoken Writing
What's all this fuss about Plain Language?
Plain Writing Act of 2010

Requires federal agencies to use clear communication that the public can understand

Applies to:
documents necessary to obtain any benefit or service
documents providing information about any benefit or service
documents explaining how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces

Includes any paper or electronic form of:
notices or instructions

Train employees
Report to Congress
Name an officer
Create a website
Use it!
Executive Orders Addressing Regulations
• Communicates effectively
• Improves compliance
• Shows customer focus
• Reduces complaints
• Allows staff to be more efficient
• Reduces time spent explaining

E.O. 12866
- regulations must be "simple and easy to understand, with the goal of minimizing uncertainty and litigation..." (Sec. 1, Par. (b)(12))
E.O. 12988
- regulations must specify its effect "in clear language". (Sec. 3 Par. (b)(2)).

E.O. 13563
- Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review
"[our regulatory system] must ensure that regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand."

More information and training tools available at:


I want my reader to [learn, know, do, respond, etc]
What the reader is supposed to do when they read your document?
What questions will the readers have when they read it?
What outcome are you trying to achieve?

Identify the Purpose
Write for Your Audience
Blog/Web Content
Broadcast Messages

What does the reader want to know?
What does the reader already know?
How familiar are they with the task?
How educated are they?
What will make it easier for them to understand?

Think like a journalist.

REQUESTS before justifications
ANSWERS before explanations
ISSUES before background
CONCLUSIONS before analyses
GENERAL before details

Organize for emphasis
Headlines in newspapers start by grabbing the readers attention and then going into details.
Visual clues
Readers determine what to do with the information based on:
Density of information
Location of information
Get to the point
Avoid wordy language that doesn’t contribute anything (other than fluff)
Ensure each paragraph deals with one topic exclusively
Break up long paragraphs for visual appeal and ease of reading
Avoid consecutive long sentences
Research shows that the amount of white space on a page is equally important to effective communication as the amount covered by ink
Make content scannable

Help the reader find important information

Break up dense information

Increase the amount of blank space
Lists and bullets help you break down long sentences and show hierarchy.
Make sure all items are parallel
Introduce with numbers or bullets
Use numbers only if there is an order to the list
Use no more than 7 or 8 bullet points

Details in the picture
Management Focus
Lead Change
Develop Staff
Drive Results
Focus on ensuring excellent customer service
Teach staff the basics behind the Plain Language culture
Promote awareness of Plain Language Act
Punctuation Basics
Use at the end of an independent clause
Separate items in a series
Separate two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction
Set off Introductory Phrases or Clauses in a Sentence
Set off non-essential elements in a sentence (appositives)

Unites two independent clauses
Unites an independent clause with a transitional expression
Between items in a series that already have commas

Parallelism refers to using equal weight or grammatical structure when conveying multiple words, phrases or clauses.
- We collect, analyze and publish data.
- Our job is to collect, to analyze and to publish data.
- We collect data. We analyze data. We publish data.

Don’t pile up a series of conditions or qualifiers before the main clause
Put the subject near the beginning of the sentence
Keep the subject near the verb and the verb near the object
Omit unnecessary words

Late delivery of the goods can result in cancellation of the contract.
Who delivers? Who cancels?
If the seller delivers the goods late, the buyer can cancel the contract.
How To Spot Passive Voice
Any form of verb to be
(am, is, was, were, be, being, been)
Past participle of a verb

(most end in –ed)
Look for:
Passive voice has nothing to do with
past tense
Filing is required
the action
the action

Plain writing reads like “spoken” English because it follows a logical order of how information is processed.

Use everyday words
Use simple and active verbs
Use personal pronouns
Eliminate jargon!
Subject, then verb
Avoid confusing long, complex sentences with multiple phrases and clauses

Unnecessary words waste your audience's time

Omit information that the audience doesn't need to know.

Wordy, dense construction is one of the biggest problems in government writing.
(This can be difficult as a subject matter expert so have someone look at the information from the audience's perspective)
Audience and Purpose
Choosing the Right Medium
Short Sentences and Paragraphs
Design: Headings, Lists and Bullets
Punctuation and Grammar
Active vs. Passive Voice
Spoken Writing
Public Law 111–274 111th Congress, Effective as of October 13, 2011
Under President Clinton:
Under President Obama:
Spotting Passive Voice

Correcting Passive Voice
Strengthening Verbs
Survey data contain both sampling and nonsampling error. Sampling error has been taken into account in this report. All comparisons are statistically significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted. At this level, all possible values differ for the compared estimates.

Nonsampling errors in surveys come from a variety of sources. These include:
• Survey design
• Respondents’ interpretation of the questions
• Respondents’ ability and willingness to provide answers
• The accuracy of coding and classification

The U.S. Census Bureau employs quality control procedures to minimize errors. They include:
• Survey design
• The wording of questions
• Review of the work of interviewers and coders
• Statistical review of reports

Possible Answer
Estimates being compared...
It is NOT "dumbing down" information
Introductions in plain English

What it's not
"Dumbing down" information
Stripping out necessary technical and legal information
Writing at a certain grade level
Something lawyers will never go for
Something the Federal Register and OMB will never go for
Easy for the writer
Real Stories
Fewer Calls for Veterans Affairs
State Department Creates Confusion
Actual Question
Have you ever been refused admission to the U.S., or been the subject of a deportation hearing or sought to obtain or assist others to obtain a visa, entry into the U.S., or any other unlawful means? Have you attended a U.S. public elementary school on student (F) status or a public secondary school after November 30, 1996 without reimbursing the school?

Mark yes or no.
Think about your purpose, your topic and your audience. If content doesn't further your goals, DELETE.
The candlestick was jumped over.
Passive Voice is Wordy
The application must be completed by the applicant and received by the financial office at the time designated by that office.
21 words
We must receive your completed application by our deadline.
9 words
Don't fear pronouns
Speaks directly to readers
Makes your writing relevant to readers
Requires less translation
Saves words
Establishes clear responsibility

When Pronouns Don't Work
If you’re addressing more than one audience
If you're mentioning more than one office within your organization
Use “we” for the agency
Avoid using acronyms or abbreviations for infrequent phrases
Spell throughout lengthy documents
Don't forget to proofread!
What can you do?
Notification of Regulatory Changes Broadcast Message
Writing Effective Email
Finally... PROOFREAD!
NOTICE: Census Bureau Proposes New Changes to Exporting Regulations
The U.S. Census Bureau proposes to amend the Foreign Trade Regulations that affect requirements when reporting exports to the Automated Export System. Specifically, the Census Bureau proposes to:
require mandatory filing for all shipments of used self-propelled vehicles, temporary exports and household goods
modify the postdeparture filing time frame from ten to five calendar days
only allow postdeparture reporting for certain approved commodities.

In addition, the proposed changes also clarify and correct errors of the existing regulations. All changes are found in the
Supplementary Information

ACTION: You can submit written comments on or before March 22, 2013 to:

Include contact information
Subject: [ACTION REMINDER] Confirm attendance to picnic June 26
There will be an employee picnic on Sunday, June 30 at Algonkian Regional Park in Herndon, VA.

If you wish to attend, please respond to this email by this Friday May 10. Provide the number of additional adults and/or children that will be accompanying you.

You can also use birthday invitations approach
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