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Federal 'Plain Writing Act' Designed To Provide Clearer Instructions For Signers To Complete Government Documents

Notaries are often asked by signers to “explain” or help complete government documents correctly when the instructions aren’t clear — not realizing that nonattorney Notaries aren’t permitted to advise signers about documents. But federal law taking effect this October may take some pressure off Notaries by requiring government documents to avoid ‘legalese’ and provide easier-to-read language and instructions to the public.

The ‘Plain Writing Act’ of 2010 requires federal agencies to eliminate outdated and confusing wording in any document used to obtain federal benefits, file taxes, or that provide instructions about government services or requirements.

Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said in a statement that eliminating complex document language will help the public obtain services more easily. It will also free-up federal workers from facing questions related to unclear text.

“The Federal Communications Commission used to receive so many documentary questions from the public that five full-time employees were needed to provide answers,” Sunstein wrote. “After the requirements were written in plain language, questions dropped off so dramatically. In short, writing in plain language can make a huge difference.”

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