Skip to main content

GAO’s Compliance with the Plain Writing Act

Report on Activities for 2022

The U.S. Government Accountability Office examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, non-partisan, fact-based information to help the government save money and work more efficiently. We’re committed to clearly communicating about our work. We strive to follow federal guidelines on writing in plain language.

This report describes our plain language efforts as of January 2023.

Our Policies

  • We named two senior officials to manage our plain writing efforts: Sarah Kaczmarek, Director, Office of Public Affairs, and Faye Morrison, Director of Written Communications, Office of Audit Policy and Quality Assurance.
  • We continued to strive for plain writing in all documents that are covered by the act, such as our reports. Our multi-level quality review process for GAO reports includes checking that information is clear, concise, and well organized.
  • We have continued to increase the number of written and visual communications analysts working at GAO. Our communications analysts assist our audit teams in drafting products that use plain writing and effective visuals.
  • We have maintained, and in 2022 added to, our extensive training curriculum. Our Learning Center provides GAO staff with training on specific aspects of effective communication. For example, we have courses in plain writing and streamlining paragraphs and sentences and a graphics workshop.
  • We developed and published new internal guidance on conveying clear and concise information. It stresses the importance of presenting information that can be quickly understood through the use of plain writing, informative graphics, and multimedia formats and presentations.

How We Communicate About Our Work

  • We continued to use Fast Facts to communicate critical information about GAO’s findings and recommendations quickly to today’s busy readers. Every report published on our website is accompanied by a Fast Facts, which is the first thing readers see when they click on the link to the report. Fast Facts use plain writing and a photo or graphic to quickly and easily tell the reader what the report is about and why it matters.
  • In 2021, Fast Facts received two “ClearMark” plain language awards from a committee of communications experts at the Center for Plain Language.
  • We have begun to publish shorter products to convey the results of our work in new ways. For example, our Science & Tech Spotlights provide a quick, 2-page overview of an emerging development in science and technology, the opportunities and challenges it brings, and the relevant policy context. Similarly, our Snapshots offer a concise summary of our prior work and recommendations on a broad range of current or emerging issues.
  • We developed and launched a new “Snapshot” short-form report format ideal for smartphone access to provide overviews of broad topics based on previously issued work. Examples include direct payments to individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic and healthy eating.
  • We completed our pilot to produce streamlined, message-focused Highlights pages with plain language text and effective visuals and ensure our products meet busy users’ needs. In 2022, this project received a ClearkMark award from the Center for Plain Language.
  • Our WatchBlog posts remain an important and conversational way share and discuss our work. They tie our work to current events and the news; show how our work is affecting agencies or legislation; highlight reports, testimonies, and issue areas where we do work; provide information about GAO itself, and more.
  • We also strive to communicate clearly about our own performance. The Association of Government Accountants awarded us with a Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR) for our Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year 2021.  

Return to Plain Writing at GAO

Jump To: