Communicating Governance: Will Plain English Drafting Improve Regulation?

32 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2001 Last revised: 10 Apr 2012

See all articles by Steven L. Schooner

Steven L. Schooner

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: April 9, 2012


It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration showed little interest in adopting Vice President Gore's ambitious, high profile National Performance Review (NPR) agenda. One area, however, where the Bush administration would do well to embrace the NPR's efforts is the plain language initiative. While it would be hyperbole to suggest that the NPR's efforts dramatically improved the clarity of the government's written communication (including statutes, regulations, policies, instructions, etc.), some progress was made. Yet it will take some time before a commitment to writing in plain, clear, precise English becomes a cultural (or governmental) norm. Even though the plain language movement lost its most well-placed executive branch advocate, champions outside the government may fill the void. In that context, Thomas A. Murawski's WRITING READABLE REGULATIONS is poised to make a valuable contribution. In addition to discussing the roots of the plain language movement and summarizing Murawski's approach to making governmental writing more accessible, this paper advocates for governmental investment in clarity in communication. To the extent that cost-benefit analysis only recently achieved prominence in our administrative state, it seems disingenuous to argue that the marginal cost of clear communication is not worth the investment. In a democracy, it is a shame that clear communication remains an aspiration, rather than a norm.

JEL Classification: H10, H11, K23, K10

Suggested Citation

Schooner, Steven L., Communicating Governance: Will Plain English Drafting Improve Regulation? (April 9, 2012). George Washington Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 1, 2002, Available at SSRN: or

Steven L. Schooner (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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