Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed the Plain Writing Act, which requires the federal government to write public documents more clearly, last night by unanimous consent. 

The bill is sponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), leaders of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management.  Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) authored the bill in the House of Representatives.  The amended bill now heads back to the House for final passage. 

“I applaud my colleagues for supporting this common-sense reform,” said Senator Akaka.  “Americans lose time and money because government instructions, forms, and other documents are too complicated.  People need to be able to understand what documents say in order to hold the federal government accountable.  Writing documents in a way that is clear, well organized, and understandable will allow agencies to spend less time answering customer service questions and will increase compliance, making the government more efficient.”

“It is vital that government forms and documents are easy for the American public to use and understand,”
Senator Voinovich said. “Anyone who has done their own taxes understands how badly plain writing is needed. Americans spend 7.6 billion hours a year grappling with incomprehensible tax forms and instructions. In fact, 82 percent of Americans get so confused they pay for help filing their taxes – stripping dollars from much-needed tax refunds. We work for the American people, and our constituents should be able to understand in clear language exactly what public documents ask of them. This bill is an important step in the right direction.”

“The Plain Language Act requires a simple change to business-as-usual that’ll make a big difference for anyone who’s ever filled out a tax return or received a government document,” said Representative Braley.  “This bill shows what bipartisanship can accomplish when we put aside our differences and work together for the common good. Writing government documents in plain language will increase government accountability and will save Americans time and money.  Plain, straightforward language makes it easy for taxpayers to understand what the federal government is doing and what services it is offering.”