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Plain Writing

Our Pledge to You

Our Pledge: Clear, Useful, Understandable, PLAIN LANGUAGE

We at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are committed to improving our service to you by writing in plain language. By October 2011, we will use plain language in any new or substantially revised document that:

  • Provides information about any of our services and benefits;
  • Is needed to obtain any of our benefits or services; or,
  • Explains how to comply with a requirement that we administer or enforce.

We pledge to provide you with information that is clear, understandable, and useful in every paper or electronic letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction we publish.

On July 19, 2012, the Center for Plain Language issued the first report card of federal agencies' efforts to comply with the Plain Writing Act. The report card grades agencies on their efforts to comply with the Plain Writing Act and each agency's plain writing supporting activities. USDA received the highest grades among federal agencies in both categories. We are honored by this success, but there is more work to do and we need your help. Please let us know if you have trouble understanding any of our documents.

You can read about the 2013 report card here and about USDA's work here.

As a measure of our success, the Center for Plain Language awarded USDA its second "A" for compliance and a "B" for how well our documents adhered to plain language principles. We are proud of our continued success - and will strive to further improve how well we communicate with you.

Why We Make This Pledge

Our pledge is in keeping with our long-standing commitment to provide you with the information you need from us. President Obama emphasized the importance of establishing "a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration" in his January 21, 2009, Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (PDF, 141KB).

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF, 123KB) requires that all federal agencies write "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." To ensure that USDA meets our obligations, we have named the following Senior Official for Plain Writing to oversee implementation of the Act.

  • Jerold Mande, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services

Secretary Tom Vilsack has also made the use of plain writing a priority at USDA. You can read about it in his October 12, 2011, memorandum (PDF, 54KB).

We encourage you to read our Plain Writing Act Compliance Reports to learn about our plan and progress on ensuring compliance to the Act at USDA.

How You Can Help

Tell us how we're doing! If you have trouble understanding any of our documents or web site material, please contact Maureen Wood in the Office of the Executive Secretariat at Your comments and suggestions will help us further improve our communications.

Learn more about plain writing: USDA Plain Language Training Course

Plain Writing Resources for USDA Agencies and Offices

On October 13, 2011 the Plain Writing Act took full effect. In order to assist you with your Plain Language training and ensure that USDA complies with the Act, we have listed some resources for you to explore.

The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is the official interagency working group designated to assist in issuing plain writing guidance. The PLAIN web site includes guidelines on plain language and tools for writing in plain language.

In addition to the Federal Plain Language website tools and resources available, USDA has developed its own materials to assist employees with Plain Language training and compliance, and guide you through the process of integrating plain writing into covered documents.

Some other good resources developed by other Federal agencies that discuss how to write using Plain Language in technical writing can be found using the links listed below. These include guides on how to write Federal Register notices, legal documents, short rules, and more.