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MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Clear language does job better

Washington state's government is now speaking plainly to citizens, and the effort is paying off.

Eighteen months ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered all state agencies to adopt "plain talk." More than 2,000 state employees have attended classes about writing in everyday language. So now they use words like stop and use instead of cease and utilize.

Gov. Gregoire says it's "a long-overdue initiative, but it's bearing fruit." In other words, they should have tried it a long time ago, but it's working.

Officials have found that when citizens know what government is asking them to do, they are more likely to comply, The Associated Press reports. The Department of Revenue, by rewriting one letter, tripled the number of businesses paying the use tax, which is similar to a sales tax but applies to out-of-state purchases.

Other states have done similar work, but none are known to be as committed as Washington state to plain language. The government of Washington, D.C., and some federal agencies also have plain-language programs.

This kind of effort could pay off in any enterprise, public or private. In Alabama, we'd like to see it catch on in lawmaking — first with new laws, then with cleaning up old laws like the hopelessly complicated 1901 state constitution.

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