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Plain language award celebrated in MN

Recently the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota awarded the Minnesota Department of Revenue a State Innovation Award for our work on plain language. The State Government Innovation Awards recognize the great work of state government agencies and encourages innovation and service redesign in Minnesota. Revenue was one of 10 winners out of 36 and selected to have a video made about the project.

“This award recognizes our dedication to providing better government and excellent customer service through clear and simple communication,” said Revenue Deputy Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly. “We are seeing real results as we make our information easier to understand, and that benefits all Minnesotans.”

The award entry highlighted three plain language efforts.

They improved their call center by writing call prompts in plain language, decreasing the number of prompts callers have to listen to from six to two in some cases. Now nearly 94% of the 740,000 people who call them have their needs met on the first call.

For another project they condensed five complicated and confusing letters about audits into one letter. The new letter uses a question and answer format, with clear and understandable language, to answer readers’ most common questions. Using a single version also reduces the work required to maintain this information and ensures communication is consistent.

The third project aims to help readers find clear payment information on the state’s website. Previously it had five unique webpages that gave payment information and options. Each page was different and confusing. They consolidated the pages into one and edited the text using plain language. Condensing the pages helps users find the information they need more quickly.