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 uses the Clear Communication Index to assess and improve our public communication materials. 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.
Everyday Words for Public Health Communication [PDF – 282KB] offers expert recommendations from CDC’s Health Literacy Council and other agency communicators on how to reduce jargon and replace problematic terms in order to improve real comprehension.
View the Plain Writing Plan
You can view the plain writing plan [PDF – 65KB] from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). CDC is following this plan. HHS releases annual reports that provide an overview of the implementation efforts made by operating agencies. CDC contributes to these reports. You can view the 2014 report here [PDF – 91KB]. You can view a summary of CDC’s progress in using plain writing here [PDF 51.95 KB, 8 pages].
Provide Us Feedback
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.
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 Manage Your Diabetes for Life [PDF 1.01 MB, 20 pages], is a clear step-by-step guide to help people take care of their diabetes.
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: November 10, 2015
- Page last updated: June 8, 2016
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs