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Building California’s future with plain language

The homepage of It highlights the main idea of the site through a concise headline and a bulleted list. It includes the image of a construction worker on a project.

In January 2024, California launched Building California’s future ( It’s a website that shares how the state is investing billions in infrastructure.

The key to all this transparency? Making it easy to understand with plain language. Plain language is text your audience can understand the first time they read it. 

A historic opportunity

Infrastructure funding is a big deal. It improves communities across the state. And it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

The federal government is giving the state a historic amount of funds for this work over the next 10 years. When combined with state funds, it totals $180 billion. More than $40 billion of those funds are already at work in California.

Assembling the team

Governor Gavin Newsom formed an Infrastructure Strike Team (Executive Order N-8-23) to help accelerate projects that lead to a brighter future for our state. It has more than 100 members from dozens of state departments.

They identified projects that support:

  • clean energy,
  • better transportation,
  • a restored environment,
  • better connectivity, and
  • more technology made in California. 

They focused on projects that fight climate change and increase equity.

Make it plain

You should know how these dollars are at work in your community. So the Governor tasked the Infrastructure Strike Team with tracking project details. A website was built by a cross-department team from CDT, GovOps, and ODI to help track projects.

The website needed to avoid terms understood only by legislators and construction workers. The average person would likely not understand them. So we wrote the site’s content in plain language.

We used a new plain language standard for state government that ODI helped create. The Governor required this standard to increase equity in how we serve Californians.

It requires that text written for the public have:

  • Grade 8 reading level or lower
  • Simple sentences with one idea each
  • Short, common words

To meet this goal, we removed acronyms and jargon. We simplified hard-to-read sentences. We co-wrote clear and accurate project stories with Strike Team members.

The result is now live, and has a Grade 7 reading level. It offers a list of projects in California that you can search and filter. A map shows the distribution of projects across the state. Spotlight stories show the local impact of better infrastructure.

The site is a significant achievement on many levels. It lets you learn about infrastructure projects near you or far away. It gives the 10-year view of these projects in the state. And it delivers all this in language that you don’t have to struggle to understand.

A plain language future

Using plain language is an essential part of ODI’s philosophy of meeting people where they are. It’s one way we model how to better serve Californians.

And plain language is a practice that’s catching on in California state government. More departments are simplifying the language they use with the public. They found that clear, direct words build trust. ODI now offers a course on plain language to California state employees. And we’ve added plain language resources to our online Innovation Hub. If you’d like to know when ODI shares more help for plain language, sign up for our newsletter.