White House Calls Federal Agencies’ BLUF: Says Use Plain Language

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 called on federal agencies to simplify the language used in issuing rules and regulations. As a part of the Open Government movement, federal agencies were to use plain, common English in official correspondence rather than writing in government-speak – a language commonly known for using a dozen words where one would do.

Just last week the White House issued a follow-up executive order directing agencies to include executive summaries in complicated regulations, commonly known in military and government circles as putting the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

“Public participation cannot occur if the requirements of rules are unduly complex and if members of the public are unable to obtain a clear sense of the content of those requirements,” the order stated.

The guidance is effective immediately, and included a template for writing executive summaries. The example directed the summary to include the purpose of the regulatory action, the summary of major provisions, and the costs and benefits.

Ironically, the one page executive order used at least a dozen complex words where more simple language would do and did not include a BLUF of its own (in fairness, the executive summary requirement is only for “lenghty” or “complex” rules). Perhaps government would do better to begin reducing the need for 1,000 page documents rather than writing executive orders. The good news for security cleared professionals is given the challenge of clarity in government agencies, demand for trained analysts in both government and contract roles should remain high.

I’d love to hear the inside scoop from gov-loopers – do you see your agencies writing more in plain language? Is the difficulty in interpreting federal documents still a challenge?

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the military, cybersecurity and social media. She reads her one-year-old government regulations before bed each night and he always sleeps at least 12 hours. Have a tip, conference or story idea to share? Email [email protected]

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Sam Allgood

The follow-up executive order does not explicitly say so, but its use of language indicates that this does not apply to internal communications!

Bill T

Nothing happens overnight. Perhaps after the election? USDOJ is working on guidance to implement this Act. I think OPM might have an opportunity to promote its HR University by promoting some of the best of agency online training regarding plain language writing skills…SG.