Good News Dept. – The Oscars for Comprehensible Govt. Writing Handed Out

Mother Jones writes about The Clearmark Awards, sponsored by the Center for Plain Language – lauding the honorable efforts of government and business to keep their written materials and websites plain and understandable for users. In short, the opposite of a nightmare sign like this one on a California road:


We go after the bad guys who use language to lie and obfuscate. To be fair it’s only right to honor those making the effort to keep it simple.

On Tuesday, for the 11th-consecutive year, the nominees gathered at the National Press Club in downtown Washington to nibble on chocolate mousse and celebrate their colleagues for making bureaucratic copy comprehensible. Up for awards were the Social Security Administration, for its redesigned website; the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, for its revision of its rules of procedure; and the National Diabetes Education Program, for its pamphlet on taking care of your feet. In a year in which a broken website became a symbol of bureaucratic ineptitude, these were the heroes the media never told you about.

As Elizabeth Warren made her whirlwind tour to promote her book, her greatest accomplishment to date, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was being recognized for its efforts to teach consumers in plain language about the predators.

The big winner of the night was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, at Elizabeth Warren’s behest, and designed to safeguard regular folks from financial chicanery. The agency received the Grand Clearmark award, the CPL’s top honor, for its new loan modification tutorial. “There’s a sense of full revelation—no tricks, no hidden revelation,” one judge gushed.

Some companies and govt. agencies do get it, do try to serve the public, are fighting the good fight everyday to do things the right way for consumers and constituents. They should be applauded as they shame the wolves of Wall Street to be more forthcoming, honest and clear.

There was also a consensus on which sector is consistently the worst at making its content readable. “The finance industry doesn’t get it,” said Cheek.

I asked her why that is, and she paused for a moment.


Arrogance, and profit. Especially in the finance, lending and banking community, if they could make more money using clear language they’d do it, but it’s clearly more profitable fore them to use opaque language or enervating fine print to sneak their real intentions past consumers, and increasingly, the regulators as well.

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