THE WHITE HOUSE
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
June 1, 1998
SUBJECT: Plain Language in Government Writing
The Vice President and I have made reinventing the Federal Government a
top priority of my Administration. We are determined to make the
Government more responsive, accessible, and understandable in its
communications with the public.
The Federal Government's writing must be in plain language. By using
plain language, we send a clear message about what the Government is
doing, what it requires, and what services it offers. Plain language
saves the Government and the private sector time, effort, and money.
Plain language requirements vary from one document to another, depending
on the intended audience. Plain language documents have logical
organization, easy-to-read design features, and use:
- common, everyday words, except for necessary technical terms;
- "you" and other pronouns;
- the active voice; and
- short sentences.
To ensure the use of plain language, I direct you to do the following:
- By October 1, 1998, use plain language in all new documents,
other than regulations, that explain how to obtain a benefit or service
or how to comply with a requirement you administer or enforce. For
example, these documents may include letters, forms, notices, and
instructions. By January 1, 2002, all such documents created prior to
October 1, 1998 must also be in plain language.
- By January 1, 1999, use plain language in all proposed and final
rulemakings published in the Federal Register, unless you proposed the
rule before that date. You should consider rewriting existing
regulations in plain language when you have the opportunity and
resources to do so.
The National Partnership for Reinventing Government will issue guidance
to help you comply with these directives and to explain more fully the
elements of plain language. You should also use customer feedback and
common sense to guide your plain language efforts.
I ask the independent agencies to comply with these directives.
This memorandum does not confer any right or benefit enforceable by law
against the United States or its representatives. The Director of the
Office of Management and Budget will publish this memorandum in the
WILLIAM J. CLINTON