The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) requires federal agencies to write “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” The National Credit Union Administration is committed to complying with the law.
Compliance with the Plain Writing Act is a priority among the NCUA’s leadership, managers, and staff and the agency works continuously to improve its performance. This report is provided for the 2022–2023 compliance period, completing the twelfth annual review of the NCUA’s compliance with the act.
Agency Official for Plain Writing
Elizabeth A. Eurgubian
Director, Office of External Affairs and Communications
Questions or comments concerning the agency’s plain writing efforts may be sent to email@example.com. The NCUA’s plain writing webpage meets the act’s requirements for accessibility to agency implementation and compliance reports and includes:
- A link to the plainlanguage.gov (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) website;
- Writing guidelines used by NCUA personnel; and
- Contact information for plain writing public comments.
Training and Resources
The NCUA periodically educates its staff about plain writing requirements and produces public documents that are easier for audiences to understand and use. Examples of those efforts are listed below.
- Chapter two of the NCUA Communications Manual provides staff with guidance on following plain writing principles.
- The agency’s Office of Human Resources (OHR) provides a two-day Writing for Examiners course and a Writing for Office Staff course. Upon request, OHR arranges writing classes tailored to each office’s needs.
- Agency staff use standardized templates for memorandums, reports, and correspondence that incorporate plain writing principles and help ensure consistency and clarity in agency communications.
Agency Activities and Accomplishments
This section of the report details the some of the actions of individual offices at the NCUA to ensure compliance with the Plain Writing Act.
The Office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion (CURE) continues to incorporate plain writing principles when it creates print communications. CURE’s internal and external communications are subject to an editorial process that includes a review for compliance with plain writing standards, and supervisors review materials to ensure the text is in understand and the tone is appropriate for the intended audience.
Print materials: Examples of print materials produced by CURE included:
- A step-by-step guide to using the agency’s updated, modernized chartering process;
- An annual report to Congress on the NCUA’s stewardship of the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund appropriation, including a description of grants and loans awarded, a description of examples of funded activities, and trend data showing appropriations, grant requests, and grant awards for the past ten years;
- Community Development Revolving Loan Fund grant application guidelines, which are available on the agency’s website, NCUA.gov;
- An annual report to Congress on the activities of the agency’s Minority Depository Institution Preservation (MDI) Program that included detailed financial performance information on MDIs and a narrative describing agency support efforts;
- Talking points, briefing papers, and materials for use by the agency’s Chairman, Board members, and the media and legislative staff of the agency’s Office of External Affairs and Communications;
- Public hearing guidelines, instructions, and frequently asked questions that are available on the agency’s website; and
- Staff training materials.
Webinars and Training: CURE also produced webinars, videos, and online training courses for credit union management and staff that are posted on the agency’s Webinar Schedule page, its YouTube channel, and in the Learning Management Service. These included:
- An updated series of 30 video courses on “What Every Board Member Should Know,” covering topics from budgeting to succession planning to considering mergers and running effective meetings;
- A video course on credit union risk management;
- A webinar updating small credit unions on Bank Secrecy Act compliance;
- A webinar on how to submit a successful Community Development Revolving Loan Fund grant or loan application;
- A webinar discussing operational challenges facing small credit unions; and
- A webinar on protecting credit unions from ransomware attacks.
The Office of National Examinations and Supervision (ONES) emphasized plain writing skills with its staff. ONES staff completed report writing training sessions at ONES meetings. The training stressed using plain writing, writing in active voice, using simplified sentence structure, and making information easier to read using headers and bullets. In addition, the ONES’s report and document creation and review procedures include the following:
- Using spelling, grammar, and Section 508 compliance checks for all documents;
- Using and maintaining agency-approved templates for correspondence and examination reports that comply with the Plain Writing Act and the NCUA Communications Manual;
- Recommending plain writing-related revisions when asked to provide comments on instructions, regulations, and guidance documents;
- Providing feedback during pre-release secondary reviews and quality control reviews when plain writing is not observed in examination reports; and
- Reviewing correspondence prepared by all ONES staff on multiple levels to ensure it meets the requirements of the Plain Writing Act and the NCUA Communications Manual.
Within the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI), the Diversity Communications Specialist prepares and reviews all communications the office develops. Through an established editing and review process, the specialist ensures compliance with the Plain Writing Act and improves the clarity and effectiveness of all external and internal communications. The office’s Diversity Communications Specialist also assists staff individually with informal training on plain writing principles through editing written work products created by the office’s contributors. This feedback and guidance contribute to ongoing improvements in the quality of written communications from the office.
After the Diversity Communications Specialist reviews all external and internal communications, the OMWI Deputy Director and Director conduct a final review. Examples of products produced by the office using plain writing principles include the following:
- OMWI Annual Report to Congress;
- Congressional Report on Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act;
- Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program Report;
- Management Directive 715 Annual Report;
- Employee Resource Group Network Program Annual Report; and
- Credit Union Diversity Self-Assessment Results Report.
The Office of Consumer Financial Protection (OCFP) included plain writing principles in written communications, scripts, and visual content for videos, public broadcasts, and webinars for staff and external audiences.
Staff Training: OCFP held mandatory plain writing training for its staff. OCFP’s Division of Consumer Compliance Policy and Outreach participated in a training on using Microsoft Word styles to produce clearer communications. Throughout the year, staff receives consistent feedback on their written work from their direct supervisors to ensure they use plain language.
Consumer Education Resources: OCFP developed consumer educational resources, including content for the agency’s consumer-focused website, MyCreditUnion.gov (opens new window), that is clear, concise, well-organized, and consistent with plain writing best practices.
Consumer Assistance Center Communications: OCFP continued to revise consumer call-center scripts to reflect clear and conversational language with consumers. Additionally, the office revised several templates for communicating with credit unions and consumers about the consumer complaint process.
Videos and Webinars: OCFP used plain writing principles to develop scripts and visual content for all videos, public broadcasts, and webinars.
Consumer Compliance Resources and Fair Lending Exam Materials: During the reporting period, OCFP used plain language principles to inform federal credit unions about consumer financial protection laws and regulations and their compliance requirements. OCFP used plain language principles in written fair lending examination reports and supervision contact reports issued to credit unions.
The Eastern Region communicated monthly plain writing tips to its staff and reviewed office correspondence and examination reports for plain writing standards. Staff are evaluated annually during performance appraisals on their ability to apply plain writing techniques. Training is required for Eastern region staff, as needed.
Although the NCUA strived to improve communications during the reporting year, the agency recognizes that more can be accomplished. In that regard, the Office of External Affairs and Communications is updating the agency’s Style Guide, formerly the NCUA Communications Manual, and anticipates finalizing that guide in 2023. The agency will continue to conduct plain writing training, especially after the Style Guide is finalized, and review other internal processes and templates to further improve the NCUA’s performance in plain writing.