Congressman Bruce Braley says it’s time for federal government officials to abandon the fancy talk and use plain English. "I like to call this ‘The Little Bill That Could’ because it really has the potential to revolutionize the way the federal government communicates with its constituents," Braley says.
Braley’s "Plain Language Act" would require that federal forms and documents, like college aid applications and tax returns, be written in language that’s easily understood by everyone. It means getting rid of words and phrases that are well known to government bureaucrats, but rarely used by the general public.
Braley points to the Iowa Supreme Court’s edit in 1973 that jury instructions be written in "plain language." Braley, an attorney, says that move made a huge difference. "What it did is it really focused on the audience you’re trying to communicate with rather than how you want to write about things in technical or legal fashion," Braley says.
Braley’s "plain English" bill has cleared a House committee and is headed for debate in the full U.S. House. "When I got to congress, this became a pet project of mine and I’ve been amazed at the groundswell of support," Braley says.
A similar bill is pending in a U.S. Senate committee. Some lawmakers may try to expand Braley’s bill to apply to federal rules and regulations as well as federal documents and forms. Braley made his comments during a Friday appearance on Iowa Public Television.