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A Push for Simple Language

Before Toni Cordell, 66, had two moles removed this year, she diligently read every form that the nurse gave her. Even so, Cordell felt confused. With all the officialese tossed around in everything from the HIPAA form to the consent form for the procedure, Cordell certainly wasn’t feeling at ease.

"These legal papers, especially the HIPAA letters, in medical offices are designed for some legal need, not the need of the patient,” says Cordell, of Charlotte, N.C.

Cordell is not the only one confused by wordy documents. The issue has reached Congress, where a bill passed by the House and awaiting a Senate vote would require government agencies to use so-called “plain language.”

The idea is to simplify documents by using conversational language to get to the point quickly and without jargon.

If all government agencies are forced to implement plain language, the results could be huge, says Annetta Cheek, chairwoman of the Center for Plain Language. “The government would save time and money, and people would save time and money.”

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