ACUS 68th Plenary Preview: Plain Language in Regulatory Drafting

Editor’s Note: President Jimmy Carter pioneered modern federal plain language requirements in Executive Order 12044—Improving Government Regulation. The Order required that regulations be “written in plain English” and be “understandable to those who must comply with” them. For an in-depth legal analysis of the need for plain language requirements, see Charrow, R.P. and Charrow, V.R. (1979).

From: Administrative Conference of the United States

Submitted by Cheryl L. Blake

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.

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