Thursday, May 19, 2011

Whiskey Foxtrot Tango: Government Now Required to Write in New Language -- English

Last year, both houses of Congress passed, and President Obama Signed into law the Plain Writing Act of 2010. You can read it for yourself, all three pages of it, here. Sadly, it's not written very plainly.

Under the law, beginning sometime in October (roughly coinciding with the end of the world according to the people who say that the Rapture begins in two days), the government will be required to put all new or substantially revised documents in plain written English. The requirements include these:

  • clear
  • concise
  • well-organized
  • follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience
Wow! The federal government is going to conform to this? What will be paying them for? Don't they spend virtually every waking hour writing crap that is murky, wordy, haphazard, and written for nobody on this planet? 

The law gives them an out though. It does not include regulations. So, the Feds will still have regulations with which to boggle the senses. And, over time, they have come up with some beauties.My favorite, because I am a benefits person were the retirement plan nondiscrimination regulations. To move into the technical realm for a second, they are there to regulate Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a)(4), all one sentence of it. 

When final regulations were initially released, do you know how many pages it took to regulate on sentence? Come on, take a guess. I'll make it multiple choice for you.

a. 11
b. 609
c. 1
d. 2,716
e. 84
What was your guess? Did you get it right? I'm not going to give you the answer just yet. But I will tell you that this regulation was neither clear nor concise nor well-organized, and many practitioners still don't understand it some twenty years later, so I don't think it was written for its intended audience.

Did you get the multiple choice question correct? Did you answer "b. 609"? No? You didn't believe that even our government could do that? Think again.

Perhaps better yet, there was the Pentagon brownie recipe reference in a regulation. I swear, I'm not making this stuff up. I'm an actuary, I couldn't possibly be this creative. It included these lovely terms:

  • Regulations promulgated thereunder
  • Flow rates of thermoplastics by extrusion plastometer
  • Shall be examined organoleptically (that last word means by smell touch or taste)
Whiskey Foxtrot Tango?

So, there is this requirement coming up. But, there is a problem. Violators of the law will not lose their genitalia or other equally important body parts. So, I guess the government shall continue to pollute our eyes with gibberish.

No comments:

Post a Comment