WASHINGTON The nation's capital tends to operate with its own wonky language that seems meant to confound and confuse. But a handful of agencies that deal with financial institutions are now being assessed for how easy their forms and documents are to understand.
The Center for Plain Language released a study Tuesday with grades for 20 agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Small Business Administration, evaluating how well they adhere to a 2010 law urging clearer communication in government.
The CFPB received an 'A' grade for compliance with the Plain Writing Act in the center's second report card. But in a supplemental grade the center provided for judging whether an agency's communications are in the "spirit" of the 2010 statute, the consumer bureau only received a 'C'.
The law, authored by Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, calls on agencies to use "clear government communication that the public can understand and use."
The grades indicate some agencies have a ways to go before their communications are accessible to the everyday reader.
The SBA received a compliance grade of 'A' from the center, but it earned a 'D' for its adherence to the spirit of the law. The Securities and Exchange Commission received a 'D' on both counts. The Treasury Department received a grade of 'F' for compliance, and a 'D' for how well Treasury's communications correspond with the spirit of the law.
"The mixed results of the Plain Writing Act Report Card show that we still have a long way to go to make government forms and documents simpler and easier for taxpayers to understand," Braley said in a press release issued by the center. "Some federal agencies have embraced the Plain Writing Act, and others haven't. Until these grades are all A-plus, we're going to keep holding bureaucrats' feet to the fire."