December 11, 2017

Plain Language: The $2.5 Billion Problem

Customer Success
Customer Success
Photo of a fountain tip pen laid across a ringed notepad

Your content is king. But how can your customers buy what you’re selling when they can’t understand it? Effective communication is a step many organizations fail to properly invest in – when it should be a top priority on their list. In recent years, we have begun to see a push towards improving readability of customer/client content across many industries, such as government, healthcare, legal and insurance. President Obama even signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 – required by law that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” The plain writing issue isn’t a small problem – the cost to business is a whopping $2.5 billion a year due to lost productivity.

One research study showed that a business with 100 employees spends on average 17 hours each week clarifying email communications. Over a year this costs the business more than $500,000. Furthermore, General Electric saved $275,000 by redrafting manuals into plain English. Several major law firms in Australia are also committed to plain language. They have rewritten their precedents in plain language and have trained their lawyers in plain language skills. These firms see the clarity of their writing as a distinguishing feature of their business.

Benefits of Clear & Concise Language

Tips for Writing in Plain Language

  1. Write for your audience. Who is reading your message? What’s their level of knowledge about your business and/or the services you’re offering?
  2. Present information in the order that will make sense to the reader.
  3. Write short sentences.
  4. Omit unnecessary detail.
  5. Test documents with users.
  6. Explain technical terms in laymen’s terms.
  7. Complete a tone analysis. This refers to determining the sentiment/emotion of your content and ensuring it meets the style you want to convey.
  8. Use available content assessment tests to set a baseline and make improvements from there.

Plain language is key to accelerating business outcomes – plain and simple!

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