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Warsaw commits to using plain language

Warsaw commits to using plain language

The polish capital wants to communicate clearly and efficiently, for everyone to understand

On a quest to modernize its services, Warsaw recently addressed another important aspect of its public communication: language. In particular, back in October, the Polish capital committed to using only clear and concise phrasing, so that it is easier to convey messages and saves time to citizens and businesses. The plain language campaign has already been endorsed by other Polish cities like Kraków, Tychy, Sopot and Wrocław and is expected to expand further in 2021.

An open administration is understandable for everyone

About two months ago, upon the decision of Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, Warsaw joined the international plain language movement. Supported by the European Union Ombudsman, it promotes transformation in the ways administration employees interact with citizens. Its ultimate goal: to make communication more understandable by using simple language and providing clear information.

Over a year ago, a workshop held at the University of Wroclaw examined documents issued by the city of Warsaw and concluded that the local administration often resorts to long and complicated sentences, copying provisions of laws, instead of describing them in own words, using too difficult forms. The experts assessed what Warsaw was doing well and what needs to be improved and recommended consultants and trainers in simple language.

In accordance with the order of the Mayor from October 5, 2020, the city administration now makes conscientious efforts in using simple language in all documents. For this purpose, officials were given a guide and a special glossary and started training which will resume this year online to involve members of central and district offices.

Some of the suggestions by the document state that written documents should include only what is important for the recipient and start with the main information, avoiding repetitions. Sentences longer than 20 words should be an exception and so should be the passive voice. Writing should be inclusive, so that it is understandable for people with special needs, such as those without education, elderly, persons with disabilities and foreigners non-proficient in Polish.

The new rules will apply for projects communication, administrative decisions, letters to companies and citizens, announcements, notices, but also on the Internet pages and applications, hosted by the City of Warsaw.

By implementing this change, the authorities want to prove that Warsaw is open to everyone, and the city office is friendly to residents.

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