Who is “the regulated public” in the Plain Regulations Act of 2012? How does “the regulated public” link to a “technical communicator”?—Hint neither of them have yet to really be defined by our government.

Hello! I’m Danielle, a student here at UAH working towards my Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication, and as a proud, new student member of the Society for Technical Communication I was recently browsing the STC website. The news section caught my eye with the heading “STC Supports the Plain Regulations Act of 2012.” I read the entry as well as a letter submitted by former STC President Hillary Hart earlier this year. She states:

“Regulations that people do not understand are onerous and are less likely to be followed. When people do not understand and do not follow regulations correctly, we all suffer unintended negative effects. Unclear regulations cause unnecessary expenses for both the government and its citizens.”

I had to read further! The Plain Regulations Act of 2012 H. R. 3786 pledges:

“To ensure clarity of regulations to improve the effectiveness of Federal regulatory programs while decreasing burdens on the regulated public.”

Sec. 2 states:

“The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear regulations that are easier for the Government to implement and for the public to comply with.”

Who is “the regulated public” this specific Act first addresses? I had to dig in here. Upon searching The Library of Congress website, it pulled “the regulated public” up in 55 bills from 1989 to current. Of my randomly selected documents to search from these pulls, several pertained to regulated public utilities and a couple of bills did not even pull up any text in the PDF file search box for the phrase. H.R. 926 was passed by the House and H.R. 2586 was passed by both the House and Senate, thus becoming a Bill. This Act and Bill both use “the regulated public” in the same context used by the Act being examined.

I am stunned there appears to be no definition of the phrase that stands alone. Nope, I found it was not listed in the Oxford English Dictionary Online and didn’t pull anything in either the Google or Yahoo search engines. The main use I found put the phrase “regulated public” in front of utilities, access, or transport. I would like to note that the purpose section of the Plains Regulation Act of 2012 uses the term “public” twice. I am confused! Are we considered “the regulated public,” the “public,” or both? Further clarification is needed.

The government also needs to examine and clarify what it considers a “technical communicator” to be. I question when the government is going to attempt to comprehensively define the role. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupation Outlook Handbook does notion the subject as technical writers are “also called technical communicators,” therefore recognizing existence of the occupation. Please realize I am not discrediting the BLS as it was only in December of 2009 that a technical writer chapter was added to the handbook (STC Chicago Blog), but this is a limited interpretation as the technical communication field is rapidly evolving.

The STC website provides an accurate definition of technical communication and ends with “What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive.” Is this not the whole idea of the Plain Regulations Act of 2012? In fact, it is!

The governing entities have not provided “the regulated public” or the “technical communicator” with accurate definitions as to who they are. Please ponder the idea that four members of the House potentially seem to aim at influencing further progression of a culture by changing their own previous methods of communication, thus acknowledging and placing themselves in the mindset of both unidentified roles. Interesting!

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