Plain Writing at CDC

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 2010external icon requires all federal agencies to write plainly when they communicate with the public, and CDC takes 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 guidelinesexternal icon 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 has trained many staff in plain language and is training many more. When we create new documents and materials for the public, we use plain language. We also use plain language when we make major changes to documents and materials that are already available to the public.

We’ve developed Everyday Words for Public Health Communication (“Everyday Words”). This tool lists frequently used public health terms and common, everyday alternatives recommended by our Health Literacy Council. Everyday Words also shows you the public health terms in their original sentences and the everyday alternatives in the context of plain language sentences. Use this tool to help your audience better understand your written and spoken messages.

View the Plain Writing Plan

Woman reading Plain Writing Act Compliance Report

Read what we’re doing to comply with the Plain Writing Act.

You can view the plain writing plan pdf icon[PDF – 65KB]external icon from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). CDC follows this plan. HHS releases annual reports that provide an overview of how its operating divisions put the Plain Writing Act into action.

You can view a summary of CDC’s progress in using plain writing by reading our 2021 Plain Writing Act Compliance Report pdf icon[368 KB, 12 Pages]

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 on the most important public health problems in the United States. Called Vital Signs, these fact sheets provide basic information and action steps for individuals, communities, and organizations.
  • CDC Features
    CDC feature articles are written by subject matter experts and health communicators. The articles emphasize strong calls-to-action and friendly, meaningful visuals.

Provide Feedback

You can provide feedback on our documents and materials and let us know how we’re doing in using plain language. Call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or use our contact form.

You can find more information on plain language on the federal plain language websiteexternal icon or on CDC’s health literacy website.

Page last reviewed: April 1, 2021