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Plain Writing Act of 2010

Last Updated: May 13, 2020


The Plain Writing Act (Public Law 111-274) was signed into law by the President on October 13, 2010. The Act, which applies to the FDIC, is intended "to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use."

The Act requires that Federal agencies prepare certain documents intended for the public according to plain writing guidelines. Covered documents include documents relating to agency benefits and services and compliance with agency laws and regulations. They include both paper and electronic versions of documents such as letters, publications, forms, notices, and instructions.

The FDIC is responsible for ensuring that agency personnel prepare documents intended for the public according to plain writing guidelines. The Corporation is also responsible for providing annual compliance reports on the implementation of the Plain Writing Act, and for establishing a mailbox for receiving and responding to public comments.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. The Legal Division will be responsible for notifying FDIC employees of the Act's requirements.
  2. Corporate University (CU) will be responsible for developing appropriate training materials.
  3. The Director, Office of Public Affairs, with appropriate delegation, will be responsible for implementing the Act's requirements.
  4. The Division of Administration (DOA) will be responsible for establishing a process to oversee the FDIC's ongoing compliance with the Act's requirements.
  5. DOA, working with the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), and under the general auspices of the Division of Information Technology (DIT), will be responsible for developing a plain writing section on the FDIC's public web site.
  6. DOA will be the FDIC point-of-contact for public comments on the FDIC's implementation of the Act and will be responsible for all required reports.

Implementation Milestones

  1. On July 13, 2011, the FDIC Chairman, or designee, will issue a memorandum to Division and Office Directors providing guidance on roles and responsibilities for implementing the Plain Writing Act at the FDIC.
  2. Shortly after the Chairman's memorandum is issued, the designated plain writing program coordinator in DOA will send a follow-up correspondence to Division and Office Directors. This message will ask the Division and Office Directors to designate contact points to interact with the program coordinator and to prepare a comprehensive list of documents that are believed to be "covered documents" under the Act. This message will also reference the establishment of an annual compliance certification process for Divisions and Offices, as well as periodic reviews of covered documents on a "sample test" basis.
  3. Based on input from Divisions and Offices, the program coordinator will compile a comprehensive list of FDIC-generated documents believed to be covered under the Act. The list will be submitted to the Legal Division for a formal opinion on whether the items listed are, in fact, "covered documents". This opinion will be circulated to all Divisions and Offices for awareness and future compliance.
  4. On July 13, 2011, DOA, working through OPA, will launch a plain writing section on the FDIC's public web site. The site will provide an overview of the FDIC's compliance with the Act, will include links to plain writing reference materials, and will provide the email link to a mailbox for public comments. The web site will also include copies of the FDIC's implementation plan and annual compliance reports (due on April 13, 2012 and annually thereafter).
  5. During the period prior to October 13, 2011, and periodically thereafter, CU will provide training for employees on plain writing principles. Initial training to employees with a high need for awareness will be conducted during Summer 2011 through classroom training. Subsequent training may be provided through computer-based instruction.
  6. As required in the Act, all FDIC employees who prepare "covered documents" will use plain writing by no later than October 13, 2011.
  7. As required, DOA, working in conjunction with other Divisions and Offices, will respond to public comments received through the plain writing mailbox and will oversee the resolution of any compliance issues that may arise.
  8. During March 2012, and annually thereafter, the program coordinator will work with Division and Office points of contact to get certifications of compliance with the Act from all Division and Office Directors. In any circumstances of non-compliance, Division and Office Directors will be required describe the reasons why the non-compliance exists and the steps that are being taken to remedy it.