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Plain Writing at CDC

Plain language improves communication. Decide who you are trying to communicate with and decide on your key message. Be clear.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director, 2012

Our Promise to the Public: Writing You Can Understand

CDC is committed to using plain writing in information for the public. Our information is relevant to many groups, and plain writing makes the information even more useful. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires all federal agencies to write plainly when they communicate with the public, and CDC is taking many steps to use plain writing.

What CDC is Doing to Use Plain Writing

Writing is only one way CDC communicates with the public. We also make presentations, hold public meetings, and produce radio interviews, podcasts and videos so that our information is available to as many people as possible. Plain language is just as important when we speak as when we write. At CDC, we use plain language, not just plain writing.

CDC follows the federal plain language guidelines and our own manual, Simply Put [1.9 MB, 44 pages]. Our websites follow the best practices in web design and navigation. CDC already has trained many staff in plain language and is training many more. We are creating new documents and materials for the public in plain language. When we make major changes to documents and materials already available to the public, we use plain language.

You can view the plain writing plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is following this plan.

You can provide us feedback on our documents and materials and let us know how we are doing in using plain language. You can contact us at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or Contact CDC-INFO.

You can find more information on plain language at the federal plain language web site or CDC’s web site on health literacy.

CDC's Examples of Plain Writing for the Public

CDC programs use plain language in many types of public documents. We are providing some examples so you know what to expect.

  • Vital Signs
    CDC has created a series of fact sheets called Vital Signs on the most important public health problems in the U.S. The fact sheets provide basic information and action steps that individuals, communities and organizations can take.
  • Lead Poisoning Prevention
    Lead Poisoning: Words to Know [1.3 MB, 36 pages] is a plain language explanation of words and phrases about lead poisoning.
  • National Diabetes Education Program
    The brochure, 4 Steps to Control Your Diabetes. For Life [NOT FOUND], is a clear step-by-step guide to help people take care of their diabetes.
  • Immunizations
    Young people need vaccines (often called “shots”) to protect them from serious diseases. The fact sheets linked here provide basic and in-depth information for parents about the chickenpox disease and chickenpox vaccine. CDC provides these facts sheets for 14 different diseases and the vaccines that prevent them.
    Basic Chickenpox Fact Sheet [357 KB, 2 pages]
    In-depth Chickenpox Fact Sheet [528 KB, 2 pages]
  • Page last reviewed: March 19, 2014
  • Page last updated: March 19, 2014
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