Open Government at the National Archives

Plain Writing Tips

These are examples of Weekly Writing Tips that are posted on the National Archives internal website for staff. We offer these tips to staff so their communication with the public is easier to understand and fits in with the principles of plain writing.

  • Comma or no comma?

    One of the biggest problems for some writers is deciding where to put commas and where NOT to put them.

  • Passive voice and zombies

    Like mindless zombies thwarted by a chain-link fence, many writers struggle with the passive voice. There's something about official writing that suddenly makes writers suddenly unable to use pronouns.

  • The Department of Redundancy Department

    Major events - like this week's Hurricane Sandy - are magnets for superlatives. Is each word necessary?

  • Tightening up

    Go through your text word by word and find places to tighten your writing. Here are some commonly used but wordy phrases that can be tightened up and make your text shorter by using one word instead of several.

National Archives staff are continually informed about plain writing through internal newsletter articles, an internal web page, weekly writing tips, and blog posts on plain writing.

Contact us if you have suggestions on ways to improve our documents or website. Email

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