Tag Archives: Readability

6 reasons to avoid jargon and corporatespeak

At my local bank this week, signs alerted me that they’re “making changes” to some of their plans and fees. You’d be right to assume that some of those changes are increases. Overdraft protection goes up by $1 per month, and a monthly fee is no longer waived with a minimum balance. Give BMO credit, […]

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Think plain to make complex writing more readable

The Guardian’s Alex Hern forced himself to read all the terms and conditions he encountered in one week. In that time, he collected 146,000 words of legalese in 33 documents. It was, he said, “enough to fill three quarters of Moby Dick, just to explain what I can and can’t do online.” Few of us […]

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Use plain language to be clear

Let’s be clear. Those “Terms and Conditions” we have to “accept” or “agree to” before using new software, phones and other technology are anything but clear. I blame lawyers, who stuff sentences with words to cover every possible situation. The sentences are wordy and repetitive. And the lawyers seem to think shouty all-caps lettering IS […]

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Flex your editing muscles to tighten flabby reports

Writing experts agree that you should write first, edit later. Ann Handley calls this embracing “the Ugly First Draft.” For Anne Lamott, it’s “the shitty first draft;” for Daphne Gray-Grant, “the crappy first draft.” But at some point you need to wrestle that first draft into shape. You have to revise and tweak and polish […]

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It’s true, you CAN make legal statements readable

Are you a Fitbit fan? I am. I’ve been wearing the step tracker since December 2014, and it encourages me to look for reasons to take a few extra steps, like parking further away from a store or the train station, or taking the long way home after a short walk with Mom. Fitbit’s “Who […]

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3 ways to give numbers the context they need

Can you picture almost 80 million litres? Probably not. It’s a huge number, too big to understand without context. A client wants employees to understand the importance of managing energy like diesel fuel. To make the 80 million litres the company used in 2017 more relatable, he used the fuel economy of his VW TDI […]

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Don’t let jargon get in the way of trust

You can usually spot jargon at less than 10 paces, but it’s fun to have the option of The De-Jargonizer. Plug in a piece of writing, and this handy tool will highlight the jargony words you might want to replace. A recent report about Toys ’R’ Us executives giving themselves millions of dollars in bonuses […]

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Help readers understand when you explain

Noise is a big issue around airports. A jet taking off can produce an average of 100 to 120 decibels. That’s as noisy as it is in the front row of a rock concert. If, like airports, your business makes noise that’s affecting your neighbours, you want to show that you’re aware of the issue. […]

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Before & after: The Hemingway app judges direct mail

Last week, I got a letter from the publisher of Reader’s Digest, indicating I “could” be a winner. Ooh, I have a chance to earn a chance to win ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! The letter is a classic direct mail sales letter, complete with the required P.S., supposedly one of the most-read parts of such […]

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9 steps to readable writing

If you produce material that you hope will be read and understood, you can use readability tests to get an idea of how you’re doing. While researching road ecology – the study of the often deadly interaction of roads and nature – I ran across a guide called a “resource for students, citizens, government and […]

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