Agencies invest heavily in making the basis and requirements of rules clear to regulatory stakeholders and the public at large, including by using “plain language” or “plain writing.” Importantly, writing in plain language does not mean abandoning complexity or nuance, nor does it mean omitting technical terms. Rather, writing that is “plain” conveys the intended meaning in a way that the intended audience can easily understand.
Clearly drafting and explaining regulations facilitates the core administrative law goals of public participation, efficient compliance, judicial review, and the protection of individual rights. Moreover, numerous statutory and executive requirements direct agencies to draft rules, guidance, and other documents plainly, including the Plain Writing Act of 2010 and Executive Order 13,563.
Agency efforts to improve the accessibility of rules through plain writing have been wide-ranging. Internal drafting manuals and procedures may, for example, require one or more offices involved in drafting to review text for plainness. Additionally, many agencies provide trainings or written resources to staff that give guidance on writing clear prose that targets one or more identified audiences. Some agencies make their trainings and other resources publicly available.
At its 68th Plenary on December 14th and 15th, the ACUS Assembly is expected to discuss a set of recommendations that identify tools and techniques agencies have successfully used to facilitate plain writing in regulatory documents. The recommendations also propose best practices for agencies’ internal drafting processes and suggest ways to maximize the value of trainings and related resources.
For those interested in attending the 68th Plenary, it will be held on December 14, 2017 from 1:00pm to 5:30pm EST and December 15, 2017 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm EST at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Three Lafayette Centre 1155 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Learn more at: https://www.acus.gov/meetings-and-events/plenary-meeting/68th-plenary-session.