The government’s websites are so unreadable they break their own laws

Federal agencies must use plain language. It’s the law. Yet the new 2017 US Government Website Clarity Index (pdf), put together by the content analysis company Visible Thread, shows that many sites defy the Plain Writing Act with puzzling prose.

That 2010 statute ordered US federal authorities to communicate clearly. The idea is that simple language is easy to understand, making government more effective, efficient, and accountable to the people.

Plain writing can also make money. For example, the Department of Revenue in Washington state reports that after clearly rewriting a use-tax collection letter in 2003, citizens volunteered an additional $2 million in a year (ppt). For every cent spent on this letter, the state made a dollar.

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