Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Dec 12 14:49:58 UTC 2006

State and Local Issues
December 11, 2006


The average person may find it tough to understand state government, but
Washington state officials want to deploy changes to alleviate state
personnel's employment of acronyms, jargon and legalese that routinely
pervade interfaces with constituents. Or in plain speak: Talk to the
public as you would talk to any other person -- simply and in plain
language. In the 18 months since Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered all state
agencies to adopt "plain talk" principles, more than 2,000 state employees
have attended classes on writing letters, announcements and documents in
everyday language. So words like abeyance, cease and utilize are out,
replaced by suspension, stop and use. When citizens know what the
government is asking of them, there's a better chance they'll comply,
officials have found:

For example, by rewriting one letter, the Department of Revenue tripled
the number of businesses paying the "use tax," the widely ignored
equivalent of sales tax on products purchased out of state.  That meant an
extra $800,000 collected over two years by the department. Though other
states have done some similar work, Washington state is thought to be the
first to make a full-scale effort, said Thom Haller, executive director of
the Center for Plain Language in Washington, D.C.

Source: Rachel La Corte, "Simply stated, government wants to be
understood; In Washington state, agencies learn how to speak plainly and
avoid legalese," Associated Press/Houston Chronicle, December 11, 2006.

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