L&I Plain Talk Policy

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General Topic: Plain Talk

  • Policy #:2.05
  • Issued: June 18, 2007 (no previous policy)
  • Subject: Clear Customer Communications
  • Contact: Assistant Director, Communications
  • See also: Executive Order 05-03 (18 KB PDF)

Applies to: This policy applies to all L&I employees who write for our customers, who we define as the individuals and organizations we serve, including employers, workers, contractors, providers and attorneys.  Division and program heads will be held accountable for making steady and meaningful progress toward its goals.

Purpose and Description

It is the policy of the Department of Labor & Industries to continually evaluate and revise its customer documents and Web pages to ensure they are as clear, concise and straightforward as possible.

The purpose and goal of the “Plain Talk” policy is to:

  • give all L&I customers their rightful access to needed information by providing clear and easy-to-use documents and Web pages;
  • improve customer service;
  • make agency operations more efficient and cost-effective by reducing misunderstandings, phone calls, follow-up letters and complaints; and
  • improve our customers’ ability to comply with regulations.


A. Employees are expected to write clear documents and Web pages the intended audience can easily understand.

  1. This applies to both new and existing material.
  2. Existing documents and Web pages will be revised, using plain language principles.
  3. When prioritizing needed revisions, programs will take into account:
  • how frequently the documents are used;
  • how critical they are to the efficient operation of the program; and
  • how important they are to the rights and time required of the customer.

B. Employees are expected to use plain language principles when writing documents and Web content.

Employees will:

  1. use proven plain language principles when writing documents and Web content, as described in Executive Order 05-03; (18 KB PDF)
  2. develop their own skills in this area by using resources that will be made available by this agency through internal training and mentoring, training offered by the Department of Personnel and resources/templates on the state’s Plain Talk website;
  3. use clear language commonly used and understood by the intended audience;
  4. include only the information the customer needs, and present it in a logical sequence;
  5. use short sentences;
  6. write in the active voice; and
  7. use a layout and design that helps the customer understand the message on the first try, including:
  • adequate white space;
  • bulleted lists;
  • visual aids, such as tables;
  • helpful headings; and
  • other proven techniques.

C. Supervisors are expected to hold their staffs accountable for using Plain Talk principles.

  1. Supervisors are expected to hold their staffs accountable for using the above Plain Talk principles in their communications with customers and provide training to help them with this challenge.
  2. Supervisors are expected to develop their own skills in clear, straightforward writing.

D. The director will appoint a Plain Talk Coordinator who will be responsible for overseeing the agency’s effort to carry out Executive Order 05-03. (18 KB PDF)

E. Each L&I Assistant Director is responsible for working with each of their program managers to appoint a program Plain Talk representative and teams.

  1. The program representatives will set priorities, determine what training is needed and decide on an efficient process that will incorporate plain language reviews and revisions into their normal business practices.
  2. Each representative will:
  • lead their program/division’s Plain Talk team and be accountable for its progress toward meaningful improvement in the customer documents important to their program’s business goals;
  • ensure the team has or acquires the technical skills to evaluate and revise (or create) understandable customer documents/Web pages;
  • design a prompt approval process that takes into account both customer and business needs and avoids "bottlenecks;"
  • develop a process for evaluating whether the target audience can understand the revised documents/Web pages; and
  • report progress to the Plain Talk Coordinator and the EMT each quarter, using a simple template provided by the Coordinator.

Qualifications for program Plain Talk representatives

F. Plain Talk representatives will be appointed by their program lead.

Plain Talk representatives must have:

  • a demonstrated interest in clear communications;
  • a demonstrated understanding of and interest in L&I customer needs;
  • excellent writing skills; and
  • an understanding of their program’s process for creating and approving new or revised documents.

G. Documents affected by this policy are:

  • letters;
  • instructions and applications;
  • forms;
  • focus/fact sheets;
  • public notices;
  • reports;
  • presentations;
  • permits;
  • any other written/printed proof of agency action or expectation; and
  • Web pages.

Exceptions to this policy may be made in order to comply with federal and state law requiring reasonable accommodation of individuals with disabilities.

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