In 2004, the Department of State established a Standing Committee on Directives. The purpose of the Standing Committee was a comprehensive program to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and its supplemental handbooks. Our goal was to bring the entire FAM up-to-date, make it timely and accurate, easier to read and understand, and easier to search for and find regulations, sources, and supporting documentation.
To accomplish this ambitious undertaking, 23 bureaus and offices developed detailed plans for updating their assigned volumes.
To bring clarity and consistency to State’s directives, we designed new FAM standards to guide drafters in writing new material and revising existing texts. The standards included using:
To enhance the visual structure, we revised the FAM’s format and style by introducing cascading paragraphs, color-coded headers, and specialized text. Additionally, we adopted the Government Printing Office Manual of Style to serve as our guide for establishing consistency in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, etc.
To speed the navigation process, we use hyperlinks throughout the text, so that you can quickly move from policy to operating guidance, from one volume to another, and to pertinent regulatory sources located on other government websites.
Lastly, we brought 21st century technology in the form of a powerful new search engine and a heavy-duty tracking system for document changes and clearances. This ambitious project expanded over two years before its completion.
You will discover many new writing principles from the hyperlinks that follow, all of which we hope you find very useful. We feel, however, the following are the most important points to emphasize when writing effectively:
Click on http://www.plainlanguage.gov/index.cfm to go to the government-wide plain language website. The site lists many more principles of drafting and gives numerous examples of how to write using the clearer style.
Plain Writing Act Compliance Report - July 6, 2011 - Outline of steps the Department has taken to comply with the Plain Writing Act
The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) Links
Plain Language Resources - The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a group of federal employees from many different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing
Plain Language Federal Guidelines - Federal Plain Language Guidelines provided by The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) Link- http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/bigdoc/TOC.cfm
Take Plain Language Training - information on training available through The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) (link- http://www.plainlanguage.gov/resources/take_training/index.cfm)
Document Drafting Handbook - The Document Drafting Handbook is intended to help agencies prepare documents for publication in the Federal Register (link- http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/handbook/)
Plain Language Writing Tools - listing of resources to help writers comply with the Plain Language in Government Writing Memorandum Link- http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/plain-language/)
Making Regulations Readable - techniques for writing readably provided by the National Archives link- http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/plain-language/readable-regulations.html
Drafting Legal Documents - NARA guide to legal writing to help agencies produce clear, enforceable regulatory documents link- http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/legal-docs/