Plain Language

2021 Federal Plain Language Summit

This summit will showcase Plain Language Community of Practice members’ experiences and successes in plain language: their projects, their efforts, their edits.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021 10:00 AM – 3:45 PM ET

Hosted by Plain Language Community of Practice and Digital.gov

On September 21, 2021, the Plain Language Community of Practice (CoP) will bring together federal employees from such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the General Services Administration (GSA).  Listen as they highlight plain language successes. Learn how they used plain language in COVID-19 agency responses, and how they combined plain language, accessibility, and user experience.

The Summit will begin at 10:00 am, ET, and conclude at 3:45 pm, ET. There will be two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break for lunch.

AGENDA

Session Introduction and Welcome, Plain Language Community Updates (10:00 am - 10:30 am, ET)

In this session you will hear from the following speakers:

  • Katherine Spivey — U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
  • Katina Stapleton — U.S. Department of Education (ED)

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 Keynote: Would More Plain Language Have Saved Us from the Worst of the Pandemic? (10:30 am - 11:15 am, ET)

In this session you will hear from the following speaker:

  • Cynthia Baur, Ph.D. — Endowed Chair and Director, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, University of Maryland

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BREAK


How Feedback and Plain Language Helped the IRS Respond to COVID-19 (11:30 am - 12:00 pm, ET)

José Vejarano explains how listening to feedback and embracing plain language best practices helped the Internal Revenue Service respond to COVID-19.

In this session you will hear from the following speaker:

  • Jose Vejarano — Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

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Plain Language: Accessibility and Environmental Justice for All (12:00 pm - 12:30 pm, ET)

In this session, Angie Fuoco will introduce the concepts of accessibility and environmental justice. She will then give broad ideas and specific tips for plain language writers and speakers to be more accessible to our audiences with access needs and respectful of people who have experienced community injustice.

In this session you will hear from the following speaker:

  • Angie Fuoco

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LUNCH


Online Glossaries (1:00 pm - 1:30 pm, ET)

You know how our audiences are made up of different levels of understanding when it comes to jargon, technical language, or slang? Use an online glossary to serve these differing levels. This talk will cover user experience and functionality considerations, where to start at your agency, and where we are here at GSA.

In this session you will hear from the following speaker:

  • Alison Kohler — General Services Administration (GSA)

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Hazard Simplification: The Transition to Plain Language (1:30 pm - 2:00 pm, ET)

This presentation will focus on one of the key outcomes of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Hazard Simplification project. In March 2020, the NWS announced the decision to remove the “Advisory” headline term from its Watch, Warning and Advisory (WWA) system no earlier than 2024. Years of social science research and engagement confirmed that a large majority of the public, and some partners, misunderstand the term “Advisory.” In place of “Advisory,” the NEWS will use plain language headlines to clearly describe the hazard and expected impact. NWS continues to engage with its partners on education, outreach, and technical needs to ensure a successful and smooth transition.

In this session you will hear from the following speakers:

  • Danielle Nagele — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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BREAK


Getting GAO’s Message Across in the Digital Age (2:15 pm - 3:00 pm, ET)

GAO provides Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, nonpartisan information. GAO’s work improves government and saves taxpayers billions of dollars, but reading a GAO report takes a lot of time—something today’s busy readers are short on. So, in 2016, to increase readability and understanding of its work, GAO started publishing Fast Facts with each report. Fast Facts are online introductions that use clear, direct language and a simple visual element to convey the most important information about the report to readers. With the addition of Fast Facts, readers spent 70% longer on GAO.gov—and that number skyrocketed to nearly 700% longer for people on mobile devices.

In this session you will hear from the following speakers:

  • Eden Savino — Government Accountability Office (GAO)
  • Melanie Fallow — Government Accountability Office (GAO)

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The Part-Timer (3:00 pm - 3:30 pm, ET)

In this session, Joanne Short will talk about her experience as a federal employee - how she steered her career in a positive and upward direction by taking on increasing responsibilities outside her job description.

In this session you will hear from the following speaker:

  • Joanne Short — United States Postal Service (USPS)

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Closing Remarks (3:30 pm - 3:45 pm, ET) 


The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a group of federal employees from different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing. Join the Community of Practice.