Why are government agencies and other organizations using Plain English and StyleWriter?
Besides the significant fact that the Plain Writing Act of 2010 now mandates all Federal Agencies to use clear, concise language, there are many benefits in using Plain Language. For government — and for any organization — the savings in time and money is paramount. And the need for reducing government waste and expenditures has never been of greater importance or concern than in these times when America's debt nearly equals the total Gross Domestic Product (national bankruptcy). In addition, writing in Plain English increases efficiency, transparency, and accountability — and indirectly increases citizens' trust in their government. And it is for these same reasons that hundreds of government offices, organizations, and businesses, as well as tens of thousands of individuals, are using StyleWriter.
Introducing the Plain Writing Act of 2009 (S. 574) — which ultimately became law as the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-274, 124 Stat. 2861 — Senator Daniel Akaka declared that the law will "enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly." Additionally, Akaka noted its advantages:
There are many benefits to plain writing. First, it promotes transparency and accountability.
It is very difficult to hold the Federal Government accountable for its actions if only lawyers can understand Government writing.
As we face
an economic crisis and unprecedented budget deficits, the American people need clear explanations of Government actions.
Plain writing also improves customer service. Individuals and businesses waste time and money, and make unnecessary errors, because Government instructions, forms, and other documents are too complicated. Anyone who has filled out their own tax forms, applications for Federal financial aid or veterans' benefits, Medicare forms, or any number of other overly complicated Federal forms understands the need for plain writing.
Government officials, in turn, spend time and money answering questions and addressing complaints from people frustrated with Government documents they cannot understand. Correcting the errors people make because they do not understand Government documents demands Government officials' time as well. Because of this, plain writing makes Government more efficient and effective.
Writing in plain language has the potential to cut the Federal Government’s paperwork by one-third, save billions of dollars and make everyone's life — whether working for the government or in the private sector — much simpler and easier. Ordinary Americans must be able to understand what their Government says to them without having to wade through bureau-speak, legal-speak, and euphemism, or to consult an expert.
What are the savings in using plain English?
National governments, councils, multinational corporations and major industry bodies have adopted the plain English model for sound, commercial reasons — plain English saves time and money. The savings claimed for plain English are remarkable:
- The US Navy estimated plain English could save it between $250–$300 million every year.
- General Electric saved $275,000 by redrafting manuals into plain English.
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs saved $40,000 redrafting one standard letter into plain English.
- British Telecom cut customer queries by 25 percent by using plain English.
- The Royal Mail saved £500,000 in nine months by redesigning one form in plain English.
- UK businesses lose £6 billion a year because of badly written letters.
- A UK Government Plain English initiative saved £9 million in printing costs.
These savings come from organizations training key staff, employing professional writers and editors. But these people can only edit a few of the thousands of documents produced every day in large organizations. Imagine the savings if you used training and editing software to guarantee everyone used plain English in every document.
Source: Joe Kimble, Writing for Dollars
How much would your organization save if everyone wrote in plain English?
Unfortunately, the costs of poor communication do not appear in the balance sheet. If they did, you would do something to control them. In the following examples, the biggest cost is staff time (author’s time plus the reader’s time), multiplied by the number of employees who receive the document.
1. A government department sent a two-page memo to 15,000 employees that took an average of 10 minutes to read and process. The real cost to the department was $100,000 in salaries, overheads and associated costs. The memo was about keeping staff kitchens clean. Was this really a $100,000 problem?
2. A bank had a sales letter rewritten by a professional, plain English editor. The clearer, redraft brought in an extra $11 million of new business. No conventional accounting method would record the previous $11 million missed business opportunity.
3. A study made by the National Audit Office (U.K.) estimated the cost of producing one page in government departments varied between $6 to over $180. The low figure was for a one-page letter, typed, printed and sent to 200 people resulting in a bill $1,120.
The higher figure was for each page of a short report that goes through several authors and drafts, before a senior manager presented it to the management committee. This means the cost of such a 50-page report read by 15 senior managers was $9,000.
4. One agency sent 1.3 million pages of committee reports to members in one year. If members worked a sixteen-hour day, seven-day week, reading a page every minute, they would eventually get through all the documents after 3.7 years.
Try a simple calculation:
Work out the number of sheets of paper, e-mails and faxes in your organization produces in one working day. Estimate the cost of each of these documents at $10 a page. Now calculate by the number of people who have to read them and add $1 for each person reading each document. (To give you an idea of this figure, a typical office worker receives over 100 e-mails a day). That will give you a rough idea of the cost of your paperwork for each day. Then multiply the figure by 240 to find out a realistic cost of paperwork in your organization every year.
Plain English can cut this bill by 30 percent.
Why Government is Using StyleWriter
Government and business documents are often long-winded, bureaucratic and dull. They are often confusing and difficult to understand at the first reading. Many agencies, departments, and offices are beginning to turn this around by adopting plain English at every level and incorporating Stylewriter. The results are huge savings in administration and staff time, enhanced transparency and accountability, and, it is anticipated, ultimately a renewed trust in government (and, for businesses, better customer relations, higher sales and greater profits).
StyleWriter is the only software designed to give government and other large organizations an effective, easy-to-use tool for writing in plain English. (And its use by hundreds of government offices, businesses, and organizations, and more than 10,000 individuals around the world, attests to its popularity.) StyleWriter is the key to changing the writing style in any organization.
Recommended by the Plain Language Commission, StyleWriter sits in the word processorís toolbar. Clicking the StyleWriter icon checks the document for thousands of writing faults, so common in business writing, and provides instant analysis of readability. Simple editing usually cuts 25 percent of the wordy style, resulting in a clear, concise and readable document. StyleWriter solves the age-old problem of improving business and government communication by putting plain English into practice into every document.
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