Since its inception, in 1975, the Congressional Budget Office has stressed the importance of good, clear writing. Performing thoughtful, nonpartisan analysis is the agency’s fundamental mission, and CBO considers the transparency of its analyses to be a basic value of the agency. Although much of the work that CBO undertakes is very technical in nature, the agency works hard to explain the basis for its findings so that Members of Congress, their staff, and outside analysts can understand the results and question the methodologies used. Hence, explaining analyses with clarity and precision is essential.
To help CBO’s staff accomplish that objective, the agency has produced this guide to style and word usage—the fourth in CBO’s history. The bulk of the guide consists of entries, arranged alphabetically, that describe points of grammar, punctuation, and word usage employed in CBO’s reports and cost estimates. In general, examples of correct usage are shown in italics, and examples of incorrect usage are shown in quotation marks. Entries that consist of a word or phrase without further explanation are intended to illustrate a term’s spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, or lack thereof.
In addition, the guide includes definitions of common economic and budgetary terms from the glossary periodically published with CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook. (That glossary is updated from time to time, principally to keep abreast of current laws, so upcoming editions of the glossary may include revisions to definitions provided here.) The style guide concludes with a section about footnotes and references that shows in detail how to cite many types of source material.