Using plain language to communicate with customers

Today I’m on the hunt for tips and tools to support us as we begin to refine some of our online documentation to better meet the needs of our customers.  Terms and conditions of membership spring to mind – hard enough to convince our users to read them, without expecting them to navigate complex language and badly structured text.

As I search, I’m just going to add some of the tools and tips that I find useful, with maybe a little commentary as I go.  This post is mainly for my own benefit, as I intend to put together some specific training for staff around writing for the web, social media sites, and other promotional materials.   If, however, you find it useful, or you have other tips and tools you’d like to share, please add links and suggestions in the comments.  Here goes!

The first tool I found was a nice little video sharing six simple tips to help ensure your text is easily navigated and read. Thanks to the folks at Transcend.

I also found this great little tool, currently displaying in beta, that allows you to paste your current text in, and it runs a programme that checks readability against several well-known measuring tools.  The attached image shows the results for a body of text I copied from another library’s documentation.  That library’s website includes a statement indicating that their writing standards aim for plain language and better readability.  In comparison to the scores shown when I dumped our current documentation into the programme and ran the test, the scores were significantly different – and the score we need to aim for ain’t higher!  Thanks to Writeclearly.org

This document explains some of the reading tests, how they measure readability, and what the test scores indicate.

Just one of many excellent posts on Copyblogger, this one has specific tips that aim to increase your chances of having your content read.  In full.  Now wouldn’t that be nice?  If this topic does interest you, skip on over and read some of their stuff.   You might even want to thank Copyblogger by becoming a constant reader, like me.  Subscribe to their blog here.  And no, I don’t need to declare a vested interest.  Just fanship!

I’ll push the publish button now.  It’s time to get out of the analysis paralysis, and do as R. David Lankes suggests.  Just do it.

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2 Responses to Using plain language to communicate with customers

  1. mj says:

    Great idea to post about this – thanks for sharing Writeclearly.org. And also love the “analysis paralysis” comment to ;-) Bet RD Lankes would be pleased to see this in action.

    • Hi MJ
      Read a lot about analysis paralysis at the point when I was hesitating over beginning a major project – a website build… you reach a point where you know a lot, but you just don’t have the courage of your convictions, quite! It’s still the time to leap, and just do it. Lankes is right, we need to stop trying to be perfect before we start. And we have to know how to fail fast, and move on. It’s all part of becoming agile – not something we associate with our industry. Yet.

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