Business is all about communication and each one of us is a communicator.

In spoken communication, with listeners right there, we get verbal and non-verbal reactions as to whether they’ve understood our message or not. But with written communication, we get just one chance to bring that message across successfully.

This is why it’s so important to write simply and clearly for an audience we may not know much about.

  • What is their education level?
  • Are they native speakers?
  • Are they familiar with the jargon of a particular subject?

Literacy is complex and hard to measure. In the USA, 15% of adults have a “below basic” literacy level and 29% have a “basic” reading level. The figures don’t take literacy challenges like dyslexia or less-obvious learning difficulties into account. Worldwide figures for English-speaking developed countries agree. For example, 44% of Australians have literacy challenges, in Canada, more than 4/10 adults have a low literacy rate. Ireland has similarly sobering statistics.

Using plain language makes good sense

The US government acknowledges how important plain language is with its Plain Writing Act of 2010. It calls for writing that’s clear, simple and standardised for an audience’s level of understanding. In this era of exploding content, the constant stream of information isn’t always quality controlled. Readers are more selective and organisations are changing their approach to content. It’s becoming evident that plain language is efficient and leads to measurable benefits.

Get your team members’ writing to the same standard without the need for training

Most companies know that writing courses for staff doesn’t actually change writing behavior.

It’s almost impossible to standardise output in a business, especially with everyone’s varying opinions regarding what is right and what is wrong. Publications have a style guide to give direction to writers and editors, but there’s always room for argument.

When a system scores content objectively along set metrics, it’s not viewed as criticism. Rather, it empowers staff to take control, score themselves, and learn as they go.

VisibleThread has developed an easy tool which scans content and provides tips on how to improve it.

VT Email Server lets you simply email a .pdf or MS Word document through to a dedicated email address. Within seconds, you’ll receive your annotated and graded report. It will not change the text, but allows the writer to improve it and to learn for future writing. In this way, communication is standardised, both within the organisation and to its clients.

Consistent copy is better for compliance and staff don’t need to be given training with VT Email Server. Sales and RFP documents are standardised. It picks up flagged words like ‘guaranteed’ – which is risky and opens a project up to scope creep. It points out jargon or clichéd language, which makes content harder to understand. The readability score shows the level of education required to grasp the message. (This content is grade 9.4, for example, meaning you’d need a grade 9 level of education to understand it.)

Empowering non-native speakers to succeed

More and more, skilled people are moving across borders. Language can be a hurdle for non-native speakers, in terms of effort required and self-confidence. Although educated and smart, they may not be mother-tongue English speakers and creating content is difficult. VT Email Server gives companies a way to empower staff without extra training.

Governments are using the tool to help the public better understand official communications. Plain language forms and instructions are easy to grasp and complete. This lessens the load on core staff to clear up confusion later on. Inclusively written language empowers those using the services and frees up resources within departments.

The tool requires no login, so access is quick and easy. It’s available in the cloud or securely on-premise. There’s also a free version on the website

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