Number: 111- 38
Date: March 18, 2010

House Passes H.R. 946,
the “Plain Writing Act of 2010”


On March 17, 2010, the House passed H.R. 946, the “Plain Writing Act of 2010” under suspension of the rules by a vote of 386-33. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation contains the following provisions of interest to SSA:

General Plain Writing Requirements

•  Would require Federal agencies to develop procedures to improve the effectiveness and clarity of communications, thus providing information in a manner easily understood by the public. The requirement would apply to any “covered document.”

•  Would define plain writing as writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and that follows other best practices of plain writing.

•  Would define a “covered document” as a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction (whether in paper or electronic form). Regulations would be excluded.

•  Would require the plain writing standard to be used in all new documents (and substantially revised documents) within one year of enactment.

Agency-Specific Requirements and Actions

•  Within 9 months of enactment, agency heads would be required to designate a senior official to oversee implementation of the provisions in the bill. This official would communicate the requirements, and train employees in plain writing techniques.

•  Would require creation of a plain writing section on the agency's website. This website section would inform the public about the implementation of plain writing standards, while also providing a mechanism for the agency to receive and respond to public input.

•  Would require each agency to post a report on plain writing to the website, within 9 months of enactment. The report would describe the agency's plan for compliance with the requirement. Would also require an annual compliance report. The first report would be due within 18 months of enactment.

•  Would require the Office of Management and Budget to develop implementation guidance within 6 months of enactment.