Though federal agencies are often criticized for convoluted verbiage and processes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have defeated that stereotype with top rankings for the clarity of their web site content.

VisibleThread, a developer of document content analysis solutions and clear reports has released a ranking of 30 U.S. federal agency web sites for clarity of written content. The rankings coincide with the October 2011 implementation deadline of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, requiring federal agencies to use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

“Clarity in documents and websites means citizens are more likely to achieve their goals,” said Fergal McGovern, CEO of VisibleThread. “Whether you are filing a tax return or trying to understand labor rights, clear instructions mean we have a better chance of completing a task.”

He added: “If federal agencies make it easier for people to engage, it means lower cost for government due to fewer follow-up calls, letters and less time spent chasing. This index provides clear points of focus for agencies looking to improve, and that can only be a good thing.”

The so-called VisibleThread Website Index, U.S. Government ranks websites on four criteria, including readability, passive language, sentence length and word complexity. Low levels of long sentences, low levels of passive language, combined with easy to understand terminology were the winning traits found on the BLS and CDC sites.

According to VisibleThread, readability levels are impacted directly by these factors. Both the US Geological Survey (rank 4) and the National Cancer Institute (rank 5) scored well but were let down by a single metric: readability and passive language respectively.

The Federal Railroad Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation received the lowest rankings due to a high proportion of long sentences, high levels of passive language, a high degree of complex language and poor readability ratings.

Complete Agency Rankings