A Boston Globe article, http://is.gd/5GT3jN, explains the challenges that the Plain English movement faces in Washington. Congress, lawyers, and bureaucrats try to justify fuzzy writing, but it is difficult to defend.

Among the reasons given are these:

  • If something is written simply and clearly, people won’t take it seriously because it just doesn’t sound right.
  • Lawyers need to make sure that a regulation is worded in such a way that it contains no loopholes that could invite a lawsuit.
  • Because there are so many parties (Congress, agencies, regulators) involved in the writing, being vague is the only way to gain a consensus.

If people worry less about sounding impressive and instead focus on helping readers understand the laws, regulations, and policies, then clarity is easier to achieve. A major reason that dense, bewildering writing is a staple of government and business communication is tradition, and tradition is difficult to change. Inertia is the more convenient option.