Plain Language

Webinar Recap: Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) June Meeting

Jun 30, 2017 |

This month’s Plain Language of Community Practice meeting featured Katherine Spivey’s presentation, Plain Language Spectrum: Every Step Counts! In this highly useful DigitalGov University (DGU) webinar, she explains how you can move forward with plain language even when you don’t have permission to edit copy, followed by a half hour Q & A session. Many Read »

The New FEC.gov

Jun 6, 2017 | ,

Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unveiled their new website at FEC.gov. This new site is the result of a years-long collaboration with GSA’s 18F and features completely revamped tools for exploring campaign finance data. It provides user-centered content for understanding the reporting and compliance requirements for people participating in federal elections, redesigned tools Read »

New ITIF Report Inspires a Closer Look at Website Performance and Security—Here Is Where to Begin

Mar 24, 2017 |

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Read »

Writing for the Web Is Easy. Writing for Users Is Not.

Nov 7, 2016 | , ,

We all do it. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, or the comment section on a news article, it’s easy to get our writing on the internet. Many of us have personal websites or contribute to blogs. We work at organizations with content management systems that allow us to publish pages with a single button click. The Read »

Using Plain Language to Bridge the Gap Between Government and Industry

Jun 23, 2016 |

Much of our work with government partners to deliver better digital services has resulted in full websites, applications, and embarking on large-scale transformation efforts. In addition to those types of projects, we also work on shorter, faster, smaller-scale projects designed to show our partners different points of view and different techniques to approach their most Read »

Putting Your Main Message First

Feb 12, 2016 |

Want to learn how to clearly communicate your message? Watch the new “Put Your Main Message First” video from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Created by USCIS’ Office of Communications, the video teaches you about the importance of organizing your information so that your audience understands your key messages. “It’s common in government writing Read »

Good Content Needs Plain Language

Dec 23, 2015 |

If good content is essential to good user experience, as Tyrus Manuel proposes in his November 23, 2015, DigitalGov post, then plain language is also part of good user experience. Plain language helps the public do what they need to do—find forms, apply for benefits, look up information and more—when they use federal websites and other Read »

Getting Serious About Good Writing—EIA’s Write Right Curriculum

Dec 11, 2015 |

Let’s see–you want to improve the skills of your agency’s writers. Here’s a to-do list: Enlist a high-level champion, ideally your agency head, to make statements saying writing skills are critical—check. Create a Writing Style Guide—check. Hold classes to introduce the Style Guide—check. Expand internal editing resources—check. But what’s next? If you really want to Read »

Roadmap for Creating a Writing Style Guide: One Step at a Time

Nov 20, 2015 |

So, you’re tired of seeing little (or big!) errors on your agency’s website, and you flinch at the random writing styles. You feel like your agency’s content is good, but there are still too many inconsistencies. What you need is an agency Writing Style Guide. A good guide can set styles that improve your agency’s Read »

Technical Writing Need Not Be Abstruse—Use Plain Language for Maximum Impact

Oct 23, 2015 |

Author writes: Additionally, the method utilized a myriad of factors for the purpose of incentivizing production to hit record-high levels of magnitude in the equivalent time period. Author thinks: My work sounds serious, impressive and interesting. Reader thinks: Huh? Technical writers are great—some of my favorite colleagues are technical writers. But technical writers often need Read »

FAQs Done Right

Sep 4, 2015 |

In the circle of Web content life, FAQ sections are an endangered species. We’ve previously discussed the relevance of FAQs: Should FAQs go extinct, or are they a useful tool in your content ecosystem? Kathryn Catania, Chief of the Plain Language and Content Division at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, encourages agencies to take Read »

HTTPS and Other Ranking Factors: What Impacts the SEO of Government Websites?

Sep 2, 2015 |

Following the recent OMB memo that all publicly available federal websites and Web services must implement HTTPS by December 31, 2016, Web content managers across government are considering the SEO (search engine optimization) implications of the transition, among other details. In August 2014, Google confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking signal in their algorithm. But Read »

An Overview of Digital Communities

Jul 31, 2015 |

Digital communities of practice come in many stripes. DigitalGov communities span eight (and counting) focus areas and have thousands of members, but strong collaborations exist in all corners of government. In honor of this month’s communities theme, we are offering a list of communities that foster connections and strengthen the digital capabilities of federal agencies. Read »

The Content Corner: Connecting With Customers at Labor

May 18, 2015 |

Here at DigitalGov, customer service is a focal theme during the month of May, and by some type of cosmic chance, I was invited to share my insights on content strategy and content creation at a Customer Service Community of Practice event at the Department of Labor. The event focused on topics I commonly discuss here Read »

Mobilegeddon: Government Edition

Apr 15, 2015 |

Much is being said and written about the coming Mobilegeddon/Mopocalypse on April 21st—the day Google’s ranking algorithm will begin boosting results for mobile-friendly sites and penalizing mobile-unfriendly sites. While some agency websites are mobile-friendly, a great many are not. We will do well to pay attention—almost 25% of traffic on government websites is coming from Read »

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