OMG, The Government Will Talk Like Normal People
Well, maybe not with OMG or other text-speak. President Obama signed into law a bill that will go into effect October 2011, forcing the government to write clearly when issuing communications to the public.
Gone are the days of “Timely preparation, including structural and non-structural mitigation measures to avoid the impacts of severe winter weather, can avert heavy personal, business and government expenditures. Experts agree that the following measures can be effective in dealing with the challenges of severe winter weather.” The era of “Severe winter weather can be extremely dangerous. Consider these safety tips to protect your property and yourself,” has begun.
The legislation itself almost reads like a magazine article, full of Do’s and Don’ts for anyone writing government communications. The word “shall” is on the way out, as are “promulgated,” “thereunder,” “heretofore,” and “practicable.”
The new legislation also gives the impression of a kindler, gentler, more personal Uncle Sam. Agencies will be expected to say “we” when referring to the agency or government, and “you” when referring to the citizenry at large.
The biggest shock in all of this? The government must now say “Please.” Not often, of course, but “please” has been designated to replace the phrase “it is requested.” Instead of “it is required,” expect to see “you must.” The IRS is expected to enjoy the new language, as there will no longer be reason for a person to say they did not understand what they were supposed to do.
Another surprise winner here is the environmentalist crowd. Without all the unnecessary jargon cushioning everything the government says, government documents should be pages shorter than in days past.
For those who would bemoan the loss of flowery language taking more space than is needed to illustrate a point, fear not- regulations are not required to follow these new strictures, and agency-to-agency communications are likewise exempted.