President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 in October of 2010. This law requires that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” In January of 2011, he issued a new Executive Order stating that “[our regulatory system] must ensure that regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand.”

Under the Act, beginning NO LATER THAN October 13, 2011, agencies must use plain writing when issuing new or substantially revised documents. This requirement applies to “covered documents,” which the Act defines as those documents that:

– are necessary for obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service, or filing taxes (e.g., tax forms or benefit applications);
– provide information about any Federal Government benefit or service (e.g., handbooks for Medicare or Social Security recipients); or
– explain to the public how to comply with a requirement that the Federal Government administers or enforces (e.g., guidance on how to prepare required reports or comply with safety requirements).

The Act also requires agencies to use plain writing in every paper or electronic letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction. When an agency prepares a specialized or technical publication, the agency should take into account the subject expertise of the intended audience. For purposes of the Act, the “public” means anticipated readers or recipients, including any external stakeholders affected by your agency’s mission or with whom your agency is seeking to communicate.


While the Act exempts regulations from covered documents, rule making preambles are not exempted, and long-standing policies currently in effect require regulations to be written in a manner that is “simple and easy to understand.” If, after October 13, 2011, you encounter Medicare documents and forms that you find difficult or impossible to understand or follow, you can go to, where there are prompts that will allow you to report your difficulties. Medicare must comply with the law and work with the public in making their forms more easy to read and comprehend for everyone.

For more detailed information, please visit the following website and review the full text:

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