EFFECTIVE REGULATION REQUIRES PLAIN WRITING
Many English teachers cringe when they hear
the split infinitive—”to boldly go”—at the
start of a Star Trek episode. I, however, cringe
when I read something that is bureaucratic or
difficult to understand. And, I get even
more concerned when that document comes
promoting communication that is useful and
easy to understand. We have already made
improvements, and we’re working to do even
more in the future.
As I hope you have noticed, at NCUA, we’re
using clearer writing in our rules,
examination reports, and letters to credit
unions. We know that no matter how well
intentioned our regulations and policies may
be, they will be less effective if people can’t
understand what we are saying.
Late last year, we launched a plain writing
webpage found at the bottom of www.ncua.gov.
We also have placed a renewed emphasis on
staff education. Every member of our workforce
has now completed the first level of plain
Clear, concise communication is an important
part of meeting NCUA’s mission. Plain
writing is therefore a key component of our
communications strategy. But what is plain
writing? Simply put, it is a communication
that you understand the first time you read it.
In our training, we provide examples of
converting traditional bureaucratic language
into plain writing. So, following are two
examples to help you understand what we are
trying to achieve.
Bureaucratese: “No one belonging to a not-for-profit, cooperative financial
institution indemnified by an agency of the national government has ever
been subject to the loss of even a single cent of his or her guaranteed deposit
as the consequence of an insolvency.”
Plain writing: “No member of a federally insured credit union has ever lost
one penny of insured savings.”
Our ongoing focus at NCUA is consistent
with the Plain Writing Act, which President
Obama signed into law in late 2010. This
common-sense statute seeks to help users of
government documents find what they need,
understand what they find, and use what they
find to meet their needs.
To achieve these objectives, the law requires
federal agencies to improve their effectiveness
and accountability to the public by
And instead of reporting that “This particular institution’s Allowance for
Loan and Lease Losses has been underfunded,” examiners can simply say,
“You need to set aside more reserves to cover anticipated losses.”
These examples show how plain writing conveys the same messages in ways
that are easily understood by almost anyone. My goal is for NCUA to use
plain writing each and every time we communicate with you, including—
and especially—when issuing new rules or examination reports.
In short, our objective is to always present information in a useful, user-friendly format. If we miss that mark, please tell us. You can submit
comments to email@example.com. In the near future, we’ll make it even
easier for you to comment about our plain writing efforts by clicking buttons
on our website when you view our rules.
Please communicate with us. After all, only you know if we are
communicating with you in a way that you understand.
“No one belonging to a not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution
indemnified by an agency of the national government has ever been subject to
the loss of even a single cent of his or her guaranteed deposit as the
consequence of an insolvency.”
“No member of a federally insured
credit union has ever lost one penny
of insured savings.”