website stats
When I am Copyeditor General ...: September 2011


Wait - do we already have a Copyeditor General?

My new hero is Annetta Cheek of the Center for Plain Language. She has helped push through the Federal Plain Writing Act (PDF), which mandates that government agencies should write plainly — that is, clearly and in a style that the target audience will understand — in all documents intended for the public.

The CPL website has some nice examples of government language before and after a good old-fashioned plaining.

My favorite:
This rule proposes the Spring/Summer subsistence harvest regulations in Alaska for migratory birds that expire on August 31, 2003.

This rule proposes the Spring/Summer subsistence harvest regulations for migratory birds in Alaska. The regulations will expire on August 31, 2003.
The Plain Language Action and Information Network, a group of federal language nerds I would like to hug, has created a fabulous document (PDF) to help government agencies tighten their texts.

It covers everything from how to organize themes to avoiding passive voice to (let's get seriously basic here) how to write a topic sentence. Oh, and there's a whole section on writing for the web (yay!).

Frankly, I think every organization in the country, from hospitals (I'm looking at you, nice surgeon who advised that I take a pill sublingually) to banks to schools to businesses, needs to print it out, hang it on the wall, memorize it.

The Act goes into effect in October. Prepare yourselves, Feds!

Copyeditor General's ruling: Perhaps the first focus of the Act should be the Act itself, which begins:
To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly, and for other purposes.
"...should be written clearly, and for other purposes"? What other purposes should it be written for?
Add to Technorati Favorites