Plain Writing Act: 2021 Annual Report
I. Senior Agency Official for Plain Writing
Eric E. Wachter
Office of the Executive Secretariat
- The EPA offers an agencywide plain-writing training through its learning and development program, EPA University. The course adheres to federal plain writing guidelines.
- The Office of Research and Development offers annual trainings to improve its science communication skills, including plain writing. Recent trainings have focused on the science of storytelling, framing science effectively and aspirational messaging for science communicators, particularly social science and tools for communicating simply and effectively to a broad audience.
- The Office of Land and Emergency Management held plain-writing training for all staff in March. Its Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery provided its own training sessions on plain writing; AP style; the EPA’s correspondence manual; common grammar mistakes; plain writing for the press inquiry responses; and best practices in writing for the media, while the Office of Emergency Management distributed resources for writing effective email message.
- The Kansas City regional office held a “Better Briefing Training” in February by its Best Places to Work Committee to help colleagues prepare and deliver better briefings using plain writing and clear communication principles, data and formatting tailored to specific audiences. The region sponsored in January a training on effective business writing and email etiquette and in February an email-writing training using audience-focused plain writing in emails. The training and an email tips guide were produced based on a Harvard Business Review article.
- The Seattle regional office holds an annual series of public involvement trainings available for all staff. These trainings cover various aspects of external communication, many of which include plain writing concepts.
III. Ongoing compliance/sustaining change
- The national-program and regional offices have designated or are identifying officials for plain writing who work in collaboration with the senior official. See appendix for a list of the designated officials.
- These designated officials possess institutional knowledge of the unique processes and suite of documents produced in their offices to implement processes for ongoing compliance.
- 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.
- Offices continue to follow plain-writing procedures to satisfy the executive order and administrative orders that predate the Plain Writing Act.
- The EPA convened a national team to develop new templates for public communication materials for the Superfund program. The templates were developed to share information concisely, clearly and concretely about agency cleanups for hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. The team worked to incorporate plain writing and clear communication principles into national templates for Superfund fact sheets and other products and are now available for use across the agency to inform communities about cleanup work where they live.
- The Office of Air and Radiation provided resources to staff to aid the public’s understanding of climate change terminology.
- The Office of Research and Development hosts and promotes an intranet page to promote effective communication.
- The Office of Land and Emergency Management distributed an Atlantic magazine article, “The Myth of ‘Dumbing Down’,” to staff. Its Office of Underground Storage Tanks provided plain writing resources to staff, including quick tips on writing, plainlanguage.gov, an online writing lab from Purdue University and other online resources.
- The EPA’s Dallas office gave a three-part presentation to its water division and other interested colleagues to provide instruction about the difference between good technical writing, which can use accurate legal and scientific language but still be understandable, and bureaucratic writing that uses unnecessary jargon and wordy phrasing.
- The New York City regional office has been focused on improving its communication with communities with Superfund sites through its distribution of fact sheets and updating its Superfund profile page websites. As part of this effort, it developed a plain-writing document for technical and scientific terms when writing about Superfund cleanups.
- The Seattle regional office asks newly onboarded public affairs staff to be familiar with plain-writing concepts and the resources available at plainlanguage.gov and requires all web staff to take the EPA’s “Writing for the Web” course.
IV. Agency's plain-writing website
The EPA’s plain-writing website is www.epa.gov/plain-writing.
The site is linked from the EPA homepage.
Appendix: EPA Plain Writing Designated Officials
Office of Mission Support
- Shakeba Carter-Jenkins
Office of the Administrator
- Taylor Gillespie
Office of Air and Radiation
- Katherine Stevens
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
- Keith Bartlett
Office of the Chief Financial Officer
- Diane Kelty
Office of the General Counsel
Office of the Inspector General
Office of International and Tribal Affairs
Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
- Terri Green
Office of Research and Development
- Dayna Gibbons
Office of Land and Emergency Management
- Matt Colip
Office of Water
- Emily Bender
- Mary Mears
- Chad Nitsch
- Brandi Jenkins
- Rhiannon Dee
- Jeffrey McAtee
- Curtis Carey
- Wendy Dew
- Mike Alpern
- Charles Bert