10 January 2007

Plain Talk

Our new governor, Charlie Crist, has decided that state government needs to be easier to understand. This is a sneaky way of allowing the people who pay to operate the government to have a better idea of what it’s doing. It may lead to more citizen involvement, which means soon lobbyists and legislators will start complaining that the so-called “plain talk” order is a bad idea. But until they do, state agencies are required to start toning down the jargon.

I haven’t formed an opinion of Crist yet; I remain concerned about his notion that “growth will pay for itself,” which I consider absurd and provably false (look at the last 80 years of Florida history and tell me growth has paid for itself), but I don’t know whether he’ll do anything about that. So I’m going on what he does, instead of what he’s said; he’s a politician after all and nothing he says should be taken at face value anyway. Based on the “plain talk” initiative, I kinda like him.

But as the article linked here demonstrates (there’ve been a dozen such lately in papers across the state), Florida government agencies have a great deal of work to do in making themselves understood. The linked article demonstrates an “old version” and a “new version” of a letter, and I don’t really think the new version is all that great. Seems to me there’s ample opportunity here for state agencies to hire on staff solely to rewrite official documents.

I am offering myself for this position. I can work from home, and you can hire me as a temp. You can even hire me as an independent contractor, if you think it’s still important that your agency appear to be working with contractors instead of hiring new government employees. I work pretty cheap. And, frankly, you need me. So please respond with your agency’s name and a phone number where I can reach you.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that there are plenty of government documents that can only be reduced so far to plainspeak. Too many of them require some measure of legalese in them. There is still a clear difference in the two versions on that link, but the second one is still not exactly what I would call easily approachable. What is the average reading level in Florida, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Why I'm stuck on this, I don't know. But I found an online readability test. There is a defintie difference between the two samples from the article. The first scores at being 2% easier to read than the average Internet web page, which places at the reading level of "a college graduate or higher." The second version is at 10%, just at high school graduate level.

I think I'm going to plug in some other text (like my own blog entries) and see what happens.