Plain Language

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 »

Using Plain Language to Write for the Web

Sep 16, 2015 |

Plain language will make you a better writer. For federal employees, it’s also the law. On September 9th, Katherine Spivey, Co-Chair of the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), presented a webinar on plain writing principles and how to apply them to Web writing. She also addressed how federal writers can comply with the 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 »

Avoid Weak ‘Links’ in Your Digital Chain

Feb 25, 2015 |

Users don’t like surprises. Unexpected or unwanted content undermines the credibility of your agency and frustrates users who come to your website looking for specific information. Using links appropriately in your website content is one way to build trust with users, according to an article by Kara Pernice of the Nielsen Norman Group. Here’s a Read »

6 Digital Media Trends for 2015: You Can Make Them Accessible!

Jan 28, 2015 |

Resolutions and predictions abound this time of year. If you’ve already lost the fight to finally give up sardine ice cream, you can always resolve to maintain or improve your digital media accessibility. Some people say that accessibility and Section 508 compliance squashes Read »

Institute of Education Sciences – Usability Case Study

Nov 14, 2014 |

After struggling with jargon-filled solicitations and a confusing website, some applicants were ready to give up on seeking grants from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Their complaints prompted a Plain Language makeover for the Institute’s funding materials. As the research arm of the U.S. Education Department, IES’s mission is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence Read »

Get Out of the Jargon Trap: Plain Language Training Can Help

Aug 15, 2014 |

The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is the official federal working group designated to help agencies with plain language, including training. PLAIN offers free 3.5-hour classes in the principles of plain language and plain language for Web writing. Read »

Social Media: Accessibility Issues and Solutions

Jun 30, 2014 |

The more public information is digitized, the more it lands on or sprouts from social media channels. This is why there needs to be a greater level of awareness and consideration for those who can benefit most from that information—people with disabilities—since they have the least access to it. Like many websites, social media platforms Read »

Is It Tweet-Worthy?

Jun 30, 2014 |

The Web now contains over 1.51 billion pages of content, according to WorldWideWebSize.com. That’s a lot of reading material, and a lot of content competing with yours for attention. People won’t waste time (even a few seconds) on an article that doesn’t matter to them in some way—not when there are so many other interesting Read »

How to Tell Your Agency’s Story—Plainly

Apr 16, 2014 |

You’ve got the right words, the active verbs, the carefully chosen adjectives and adverbs. You’ve got the facts. You’ve got the talking points. All you have to do is put it together, right? Wait. What you want to tell people is not necessarily what they need to know. I know it’s hard to organize material Read »

Plain Language Ninja

Sep 26, 2013 |

A few days ago a coworker asked me to look at a paragraph. He said it was on the top customer service priorities in our division. So I scooted my chair over and looked at it. Then I looked at him and asked, “But what Read »