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Plain Writing

Overview

Clear air... clear water... it all depends on clear writing.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF) (3 pp, yy K, About PDFrequires federal agencies to write "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." Former President Obama also emphasized the importance of establishing "a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration" in his January 21, 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

We are committed to writing new documents in plain language, using the Federal Plain Language Guidelines.

We need your help to comply with this Act! Let us know if you have trouble understanding our documents or the pages on our website, or if we haven't written a document in plain language.

We have assigned staff to oversee our plain language efforts.  Eric Wachter is the Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing.

We're training our employees and have strengthened our oversight process. We must use plain language in any document that:

  • is necessary for obtaining any federal government benefit or service or filing taxes;
  • provides information about any federal government benefit or service; or
  • explains to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces.

We have to report our progress and compliance.  This site includes the initial report, issued in 2011, and subsequent annual reports that the Plain Writing Act requires.

Top of Page

2016 Annual Report

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Plain Writing Act
2016 Annual Report

I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing

Eric E. Wachter
Director
Office of the Executive Secretariat
wachter.eric@epa.gov
(202) 564-7960

II. Training

  1. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.

  2. The EPA’s Leadership Development Institute annually holds agencywide plain-writing courses. The course is designed for employees at all levels of the agency. Participants engage in exercises to improve their written communication, decrease muddy language and slang, and eliminate information clutter. This exercise-based workshop focuses on setting quality writing standards with an overall objective to increase productivity, identify problem areas, improve clarity of message and enhance one’s ability to share information to a broad audience.

III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

  1. The national-program and regional offices have designated officials for plain writing who work in collaboration with the senior official. See appendix for a list of the designated officials.

  2. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designated officials have implemented processes for ongoing compliance.

  3. These processes include communications officials’ approval of documents; multi-level managerial review for plain writing; designating plain-writing coordinators in individual offices; and refresher training courses.

  4. Offices continue to follow plain-writing procedures to satisfy the executive order and administrative orders that predate the Plain Writing Act.

IV. Agency's plain-writing website

  1. The EPA’s plain-writing website is www.epa.gov/home/plain-writing.

  2. The site is linked from epa.gov/open.

Appendix

EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials

Office of Administration and Resource Management
Joanne Oxley

Office of the Administrator
Eric Wachter

Office of Air and Radiation
Wanda Farrar

Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Keith Bartlett

Office of Environmental Information
Jonda Byrd

Office of the Chief Financial Officer
Gene Pontillo

Office of the General Counsel
Aditi Prabhu

Office of the Inspector General
vacant

Office of International and Tribal Affairs
Chris Hoff

Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
vacant

Office of Research and Development
Dayna Gibbons

Office of Land and Emergency Management
(formerly "Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response")
Nancy Cohen

Office of Water
Travis Loop

Region 1
Nancy Grantham

Region 2
Michael McGowan

Region 3
Terry White

Region 4
Bryan Myers

Region 5
John Peterson

Region 6
David Gray

Region 7
vacant

Region 8
Wendy Dew

Region 9
Kelly Zito

Region 10
Charles Bert

Top of Page

2015 Annual Report

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Plain Writing Act
2015 Annual Report

I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing

Eric E. Wachter
Director
Office of the Executive Secretariat
wachter.eric@epa.gov
(202) 564-7960

II. Training

  1. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.

  2. Among the training highlights in 2015:

    1. EPA's Leadership Development Institute annually holds agencywide plain-writing courses and offered three open-enrollment courses in 2015. The course is designed for employees at all levels of the agency. Participants engage in exercises to improve their written communication, decrease muddy language and slang, and eliminate information clutter. This exercise-based workshop focuses on setting quality writing standards with an overall objective to increase productivity, identify problem areas, improve clarity of message, and enhance one's ability to share information to a broad audience.

    2. In response to a review of the Action Development Process, the Office of Policy in the Office of the Administrator worked to finalize a webinar to promote plain writing during rule writing to help the public better understand EPA regulations.

    3. Region 10 included plain-writing principles when it launched in spring 2015 the year-long Community College Certificate Training Program. This program focused on external and internal communications and community engagement.

    4. The Office of Communications and Government Relations in Region 3 produced in March 2015 an internal guide for preparing regional and divisional correspondence in response to external inquiries and requests for information. The guide includes key plain-writing principles and provides tips to address the most common issues and questions that writers encounter when preparing correspondence.

III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

  1. The national-program and regional offices have designated officials for plain writing who work in collaboration with the senior official. See appendix for a list of the designated officials.

  2. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designated officials have implemented processes for ongoing compliance.

  3. These processes include communications officials' approval of documents; multi-level managerial review for plain writing; designating plain-writing coordinators in individual offices; and refresher training courses.

  4. Offices continue to follow plain-writing procedures to satisfy the executive order and administrative orders that predate the Plain Writing Act.

  5. Among the compliance highlights in 2015:

    1. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer's special assistants in the six OCFO offices serve an important role in delivering clear and effective communication. Recent continuity in these positions has fostered institutional knowledge of the importance of plain writing in OCFO communications.

    2. During its reorganization in 2015 the Office of the Chief Financial Officer worked diligently to ensure that it continues to maintain high level of quality control over the review of documents.

    3. Region 10 emphasized the plain-writing courses provided through the employee training portal SkillPort.

IV. Agency's plain-writing website

  1. EPA's plain-writing website is epa.gov/home/plainwriting.

  2. The site is linked from epa.gov/open.

Appendix

EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials

Office of Administration and Resource Management
Joanne Oxley

Office of the Administrator
Eric Wachter

Office of Air and Radiation
Wanda Farrar

Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Keith Bartlett

Office of Environmental Information
Jonda Byrd

Office of the Chief Financial Officer
Gene Pontillo

Office of the General Counsel
Aditi Prabhu

Office of the Inspector General
vacant

Office of International and Tribal Affairs
Chris Hoff

Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
vacant

Office of Research and Development
Dayna Gibbons

Office of Land and Emergency Management
(formerly "Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response")
Nancy Cohen

Office of Water
Travis Loop

Region 1
Nancy Grantham

Region 2
Michael McGowan

Region 3
Terry White

Region 4
Bryan Myers

Region 5
John Peterson

Region 6
David Gray

Region 7
vacant

Region 8
Wendy Dew

Region 9
Kelly Zito

Region 10
Charles Bert

Top of Page

2014 Annual Report

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Plain Writing Act
2014 Annual Report

I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing

Eric E. Wachter
Director
Office of the Executive Secretariat
wachter.eric@epa.gov
(202) 564-7960

II. Training

  1. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.

  2. Among the training highlights in 2014:

    1. EPA's Leadership Development Institute annually holds agencywide plain-writing courses and offered two open-enrollment courses in 2014. The course is designed for employees at all levels of the agency. Participants engage in exercises to improve their written communication, decrease muddy language and slang, and eliminate information clutter. This exercise-based workshop focuses on setting quality writing standards with an overall objective to increase productivity, identify problem areas, improve clarity of message and enhance one's ability to share information to a broad audience.

    2. The Office of Research and Development held two plain writing trainings for its staff. ORD also offered in November its first e-writing training to the communications team. The training focused on communicating more effectively through email as ORD tends to email with the public regularly.

    3. The Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response's community involvement coordinators participated in OSWER's writing webinars, including writing outreach materials and community involvement plans. OSWER conducted one-on-one writing instruction for remedial program managers doing technical presentations and raised awareness of the plain-writing requirements by reducing the use of jargon and acronyms.

    4. Region 5 held two plain-writing training sessions: one for Superfund community involvement staff and a second for a section of the Land and Chemicals Division.

III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

  1. The national-program and regional offices have designated officials for plain writing to work in collaboration with the senior official. See appendix for a list of the designated officials.

  2. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designated officials have implemented processes for ongoing compliance.

  3. These processes include communications officials' approval of documents; multi-level managerial review for plain writing; designating plain-writing coordinators in individual offices; and refresher training courses.

  4. Offices continue to follow plain-writing procedures that were already in place to satisfy the executive order and administrative orders that predate the Plain Writing Act.

  5. Among the compliance highlights in 2014:

    1. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer's special assistants in the six OCFO offices serve an important role in delivering clear and effective communication. Recent continuity in these positions has fostered institutional knowledge of the importance of plain writing in OCFO communications. OCFO also has stream lined its correspondence process, which is enabling better plain-writing quality control.

    2. Region 1's communications team, which meets weekly and includes representatives from each program office, emphasizes plain writing in its meetings. Region 1 has instituted office hours with one of its press officers to provide support for effective, clear and plain writing for blogs. Program staff is involved in press-release drafting, and the senior press officer edits documents to ensure they are written plainly. He also explains his approach on a case-by-case basis, so staff learn why changes are being made and how to incorporate them in future documents.

IV. Agency's plain-writing website

  1. EPA's plain-writing website is epa.gov/plainwriting.

  2. The site is linked from epa.gov/open.

Appendix

EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials

Office of Administration and Resource Management
Joanne Oxley

Office of the Administrator
Eric Wachter

Office of Air and Radiation
Wanda Farrar

Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Keith Bartlett

Office of Environmental Information
Jonda Byrd

Office of the Chief Financial Officer
Gene Pontillo

Office of the General Counsel
Aditi Prabhu

Office of the Inspector General
vacant

Office of International and Tribal Affairs
Chris Hoff

Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
vacant

Office of Research and Development
Dayna Gibbons

Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
Nancy Cohen

Office of Water
Travis Loop

Region 1
Nancy Grantham

Region 2
Michael McGowan

Region 3
Terry White

Region 4
Bryan Myers

Region 5
John Peterson

Region 6
David Gray

Region 7
vacant

Region 8
Wendy Dew

Region 9
Kelly Zito

Region 10
Charles Bert

Top of Page

2013 Annual Report

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Plain Writing Act
2013 Annual Report

I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing

Eric E. Wachter
Director
Office of the Executive Secretariat
wachter.eric@epa.gov
(202) 564-7960

II. Training

A. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.

B. EPA offers classroom workshops and training sessions for interested employees.

C. Among the training highlights in 2013:

i. The Office of Environmental Information held a plain writing training for approximately 20 communications staff members to discuss writing standards, including plain writing.

ii. The Office of Environmental Information also established a writing-for-the-web course that colleagues from the Office of External Affairs delivered several times for EPA web writers, coders and reviewers. This ongoing course emphasizes writing web content plainly and directly and how to target an audience and write for that audience. Find more information about this training.

iii. As a supplement to the agency's correspondence manual, EPA's Region 2 produced a style guide that further explains clear, concise writing and provides alternatives for complex statements, technical jargon and acronyms. The region also has provided training on PowerPoint presentations to technical staff employees, with a focus on employees who participate in community outreach.

III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

A. The national-program and regional office have designated officials for plain writing to work in collaboration with the senior official. See appendix for a list of the designated officials.

B. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designated officials have implemented processes for ongoing compliance.

C. These processes include communications officials' approval of documents; multi-level managerial review for plain writing; designating plain-writing coordinators in individual offices; and refresher training courses.

D. Offices continue to follow plain-writing procedures that were already in place to satisfy the executive order and administrative orders that predate the Plain Writing Act.

E. Among the compliance highlights in 2013:

i. The Office of Air and Radiation follows a process for technical staff and communications staff to work together to review and approve public communications materials, including website content, factsheets, press releases and print materials, to ensure that they are written in plain language.

ii. Region 2 has implemented a formal review process for correspondence, social media, web posts and other written communications to require that at least one professional editor reviews the documents to ensure the documents are written plainly.

IV. Agency's plain-writing website

A. EPA's plain-writing website is epa.gov/plainwriting.

B. The site is linked from epa.gov/open.

    Appendix

    EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials

    Office of Administration and Resource Management
    Joanne Oxley

    Office of the Administrator
    Eric Wachter

    Office of Air and Radiation
    Wanda Farrar

    Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
    Keith Bartlett

    Office of Environmental Information
    Jonda Byrd

    Office of the Chief Financial Officer
    Gene Pontillo

    Office of the General Counsel
    Aditi Prabhu

    Office of the Inspector General
    vacant

    Office of International and Tribal Affairs
    Chris Hoff

    Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
    vacant

    Office of Research and Development
    Dayna Gibbons

    Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
    Nancy Cohen

    Office of Water
    Travis Loop

    Region 1
    Nancy Grantham

    Region 2
    Bonnie Bellow

    Region 3
    Terry White

    Region 4
    Bryan Myers

    Region 5
    John Peterson

    Region 6
    David Gray

    Region 7
    vacant

    Region 8
    Wendy Dew

    Region 9
    Kelly Zito

    Region 10
    Charles Bert

    Top of Page

    2012 Annual Report

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Plain Writing Act
    2012 Annual Report

    I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing

    Eric E. Wachter
    Director
    Office of the Executive Secretariat
    wachter.eric@epa.gov
    (202) 564-7960

    II. Training

    1. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.
    2. EPA offers classroom workshops and training sessions for interested employees.

    III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

    1. Each national-program and regional office has appointed a designated official for plain writing. See appendix.
    2. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designated officials have implemented processes for ongoing compliance.
    3. These processes include communications officials' approval of documents; multi-level managerial review for plain writing; designating plain-writing coordinators in individual offices; and refresher training courses.
    4. Many offices had existing plain-writing procedures already in place to satisfy existing executive order and administrative orders.
    5. The senior official for plain writing and the designated officials meet to oversee compliance.

    IV. Agency's plain-writing website

    1. EPA's plain-writing website is www.epa.gov/plainwriting.
    2. The site is linked from www.epa.gov/open.

    Appendix

    EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials

    Office of Administration and Resource Management
    Joanne Oxley

    Office of the Administrator
    Eric Wachter

    Office of Air and Radiation
    Wanda Farrar

    Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
    Lynne Davies

    Office of Environmental Information
    Jonda Byrd

    Office of the Chief Financial Officer
    Gene Pontillo

    Office of the General Counsel
    Aditi Prabhu

    Office of International and Tribal Affairs
    Chris Hoff

    Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
    Teresa Green

    Office of Research and Development
    Dayna Gibbons

    Office of Water
    Macara Lousberg

    Region 1
    Nancy Grantham

    Region 2
    Bonnie Bellow

    Region 3
    Terry White

    Region 4
    Bryan Myers

    Region 5
    John Peterson

    Region 6
    David Gray

    Region 7
    vacant

    Region 8
    Wendy Dew

    Region 9
    Kelly Zito

    Region 10
    Charles Bert

    Top of Page

    Initial Report

    I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing:

    Eric E. Wachter
    Director
    Office of the Executive Secretariat
    wachter.eric@epa.gov
    (202) 564-7960

    II. Inform agency staff of Plain Writing Act's requirements:

    1. General Counsel Scott Fulton issued a memorandum to all employees informing them of the requirements of the Act. The memorandum was emailed agencywide.

    2. The Plain Writing Act website is linked to the agency's Intranet.

    3. A section on plain writing was been included in EPA's Correspondence Manual, which prescribes specific standards and formats for the preparation of official agency correspondence.

    III. Training

    1. EPA has an online training for all employees who produce documents for the public and for any employee who would like to be trained in plain writing.

    2. EPA is planning classroom workshops and training sessions for interested employees.

    IV. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change

    1. Each national-program and regional office will appoint a designated official for plain writing.

    2. With institutional knowledge of the unique processes and various documents produced in their offices, these designate officials will devise and implement processes for ongoing compliance.

    3. The senior official for plain writing and the designated officials will meet regularly to oversee compliance.

    V. Agency's plain-writing website

    1. Visit EPA's plain-writing website

    2. Visit our Open Gov site

    Top of Page

    Resources for EPA Writers

    Note that none of the pages below can be viewed outside EPA's firewall. Intranet