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Politics & Government
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Pittsburgh City Council To Consider Plain Language Bill

City Council is slated on Wednesday to consider Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak's plain language resolution, which aims to do away with forms and other documents filled with legalese that may be hard for some people to understand.

“It requires all language and materials to be clear and concise, using simple language for an eighth grade audience,” Rudiak said. “We’ve actually done some tests on Microsoft Word and have seen that many of our documents practically require a college degree to get through.”

Rudiak held a post-agenda meeting in council chambers on Monday to discuss the issue.

Carnegie Mellon University Communication and Marketing Professor Ed Barr, who spoke at the meeting, said people today are bombarded with words and information and have short attention spans, so plain language documents would make things easier.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” Barr said.

Rudiak said her office staff spends a chunk of every day helping people navigate complex forms.

“We feel that we could actually save a lot of staff time, save a lot of energy and labor and, frankly, money at the end of the day if we actually would look at our slew of documentation and make it easier for our people to understand,” Rudiak said.

Under the bill, a “plain language team” would be assembled to determine the best way to approach simplifying city documents. It would be made up of people from the Mayor’s office, City Council and other administrative units.

In addition, Rudiak is proposing that the city adopt a graphic standard. She pointed out that currently different departments are using different graphics and letterhead, and she’d like to see that become uniform.