Monday, September 10, 2012

The costs of unclear writing

We all know – at least intuitively – that clear writing promotes efficiency and unclear writing impedes it. Here’s an article from Northern Ireland about some clear and unclear government writing samples and a couple of estimates of the costs of unclear writing. The article stars Chrissie Maher (pictured), a famous U.K. advocate of the use of plain English.

Notes for U.S. readers: “Stormont” is shorthand for the government of Northern Ireland. One British Pound (£) equals approximately $1.59 as of this morning.

Here is an excerpt from the article:
In the 1980s Royal Mail postal redirection forms had an 87% error rate and cost £10,000 a week to reprocess. They were rewritten using plain English principles and the postal service estimated that introducing a more clearly worded form saved it £500,000 in the first nine months.
The Takeaway: This is just one example of how the use of clear writing can increase efficiency. When corporations and governments focus on better writing, the gains are typically substantial.

See disclaimer.

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