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February 1999

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Good-bye to Gobbledygook

How would a Federal Government that used plain language operate? The answer, of course, is "better!" On June 1, 1998, in a Presidential Memorandum on Plain Language, President Clinton directed the heads of executive departments and agencies-including FHWA-to do the following:

  • By October 1, 1998, use plain language in all new documents (other than regulations) and by January 1, 2002, rewrite in plain language all documents created prior to October 1, 1998.
  • By January 1, 1999, use plain language in all proposed and final rulemakings published in the Federal Register, and rewrite in plain language existing regulations as time and resources permit.

The hope is that in only a few years, citizens will not only expect, but will get, Federal Government documents that are written with clarity and are easy to understand and use.

As one means of encouraging Government agencies to take the step from gobbledygook to clarity, Vice President Gore presents monthly "No Gobbledygook" awards to recognize documents that have been rewritten in plain language, as well as the writers who revamped them.

We at Focus always strive for clear, concise writing that avoids gobbledygook and jargon. This new directive strengthens our resolve.

To find out more about the Plain Language Program, visit the Web site at plainlanguage.gov. The site includes information and links to numerous writing references, training courses, and other resources on good writing.

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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