Plain Language Documents and Graphics

Plain Language Documents and Graphics

A Resolution calling on the [Insert Jurisdiction] to adopt the Principles of Plain Language, and a Graphic Standard


WHEREAS, government documents are often written in a way that is confusing and unclear, and


WHEREAS, clearly written documents aid transparency, public participation, and collaboration by enabling the public to fully understand the law, announcements, and procedures; and
WHEREAS, newspapers typically write at an 8th grade level to increase readability and understanding of complex issues; and


WHEREAS, the federal government enacted the Plain Writing Act of 2010 which requires all Federal agencies to use “Plain Language” in their written communications with the public; and


WHEREAS, Plain Language legislation will increase the public’s participation in the democratic process by opening the doors to a better understanding of the laws, announcements, and procedures being made by local government; and


WHEREAS, a uniform organizational identity will make [Insert Jurisdiction] documents more easily recognizable and readable.




“Plain Language” means writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience. Best practices include:


  • being clear and concise, including only important and directly relevant information
  • using simple language, written for an 8th grade audience
  • defining the purpose of the document and the application or submission process
  • understanding and writing for the audience, taking into consideration their needs and presumed knowledge about the topic
  • using the active voice
  • keeping sentences and paragraphs short
  • organizing material in a logical order
  • designing the document with headings, space, and bulleted lists, and other features to make information easy to find
  • making any submission process clear, intuitive, and as easy as possible, with the option to submit documents through online forms


“The Public” refers to any individual or organization that has an interest in the affairs of the [Insert Jurisdiction].


“Department” means any [Insert Jurisdiction] department, office, administrative unit, commission, board, advisory committee, or division, including [Insert Governing Body].


“Documents” refers to any paper or electronic materials, web pages, business cards, letterhead, e-mail signatures, and others that:


  • are necessary for obtaining any Department benefit or service
  • are necessary for paying any Department fees, fines, or taxes
  • explain to the public how to comply with a law or regulation enforced by the [Insert Jurisdiction]
  • provide notice to the public about public meetings
  • provide instruction to City employees regarding workplace policies, employment agreements, wages, or benefits
  • identify City employees and programs
  • describe the contents of a resolution or ordinance

“Employee” refers to any person hired on a full or part-time basis to work for the [Insert Jurisdiction].


“Graphic Standard” refers to a set of guidelines outlining an organizational identity system, and its acceptable uses. The graphic standard should include official:

  1. Logos and Seals
  2. Font families
  3. Color codes and palettes
  4. Graphic elements
  5. Design templates for all document types


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the [Insert Jurisdiction] as follows:


Section 1. A Plain Language Team made up of [Insert Jurisdiction] staff shall oversee the creation of a graphic standard manual (and the implementation of plain language principles) for all [Insert Jurisdiction] documents.


Section  2. In consultation with the Plain Language Team, shall develop informational plain language learning materials to be provided to all new and current [Insert Jurisdiction] employees.


Section  3. Department heads shall post the completed graphic standard manual to the website, to be available for all [Insert Jurisdiction] employees.


Section  4. All [Insert Jurisdiction] employees shall follow the graphic standard manual (and plain language principles) when writing or revising documents.


Section 5. Plain language standards will only apply to any new documentation or graphics created from the passage of this resolution unless otherwise instructed by chief administrator or manager.