U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

The Plain Writing Act of 2010

The Plain Writing Act requires federal documents to be clear, concise, and well-organized. All publications and websites created by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy need to be written in plain language.

Read the Final Guidance on the Plain Writing Act of 2010 from the Office of Management and Budget.

What is Plain Language?

A website is written in plain language if it's written so that its target audience can understand the content.

In general, plain writing is clear, concise, and easy-to-understand. It doesn't include filler words or jargon. Our writing guidelines are geared toward plain writing. Techniques such as headers, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and well-written links all make your content easier to understand.

Plain writing (or plain language) is not "dumbed down" writing. The Plain Writing Act does not require that all content be written for the general public. If you are writing for a technical audience, you can use the words and terms they understand. All content should be targeted: know your target audience, know who needs to read your content, and write to their reading level.

What Has to Be Written in Plain Language?

The Plain Writing Act doesn't just apply to websites. It applies to any products that:

  • Are necessary for obtaining any federal government benefit or service, or filing taxes (e.g., tax forms or benefit applications);
  • Provide information about any federal government benefit or service (e.g., handbooks for Medicare or Social Security recipients); or
  • Explain to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces (e.g., guidance on how to prepare required reports or comply with safety requirements).

The act also requires agencies to use plain writing in every paper or electronic letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction.

All websites and publications developed by EERE must be written in plain writing.

Resources

These pages explain more about what plain language is and how you can write plainly: