By: Paul Yoon
Customer: “Can you please say that again?”
Service Representative: “Let me explain this again for you. I said that FRA, CZE, RUS, GER, and IOC have decided to contact all their POCs at the FAA so that the TSA will have their SOPs good to go. Please go to the TSA HQ office, which is located between the USPS and Run With Us. Fill out the form TSA FM 1069-AC and take it to one of the windows. They will give you a VIS IOC Pass. Make sure to get your POC by scanning the QR Code on your way out.”
Customer: “Can you say that again, please?”
Did you ever experience a similar situation when you had to read a document or publication 2 or 3 times just to understand the topic? Have you received a newsletter, contract, registration form, flyer, email, or communication materials that made you more confused and frustrated after having read it?
For most of us, the answer will more than likely be “yes.”
However, the most important question that you need to be asking is “Did I or do I create unclear, confusing, lengthy, and difficult documents and publications? Is my organization, company, or group the creator of these types of materials?”
Many people and organizations struggle with the delivery of clear, concise, and accurate information. Most times the people reading or receiving the information will not provide you with feedback or constructive criticism. They will likely misinterpret, misunderstand, or ignore you due to their confusion of your message.
Subject-matter experts, or “professionals,” tend to make the critical error of assuming that the reader is going to understand the details, jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations that you are using. Unclear, overly complex, or specialized language will create barriers in your communication in a variety of societal contexts. Furthermore, recipients of your message will have different professional, cultural, historical, and linguistic barriers that prevent them from understanding your message.
There isn’t a grading scale or measurement tool to be able to tell if you have the clearest, most concise, and highest standards of writing. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are things you can do to make sure that the message you send is the message that is received.
Of course, you might be telling yourself that you don’t have a problem writing in English. Nobody has ever challenged your writing and made grammatical corrections on your emails. However, there is more to this situation than you realize:
• Department of Education
87% of American adults are unable to compare two viewpoints in an article because of their English proficiency
• Department of Education
54% of U.S. adults between the ages of 16 – 74 (130 million adults) read below a 6th-grade level
• Yale University 2021
20% (65 million) of the U.S. workforce population are dyslexic
• Yale University 2021
1 in 10 of the U.S. workforce population(19.2 million adults) are Limited English Proficient (LEP means that you do not speak English “very well,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau)
• General Electric Company
1 manual written in simple plain language led to 94% savings in customer service costs. $375,000 down to $22,000
• Department of Veterans Affairs
$40,000 per document saved after applying simple plain language to letters and notifications. 1,128 call center calls went down to 192 customer service phone calls
Now that you know the importance of good communication and the amount of time and money that it actually saves, here are 5 tips that you can apply when you write an email, create a document, or design marketing materials.
1. Write with the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why
2. Simplify your writing: This is not an essay or writing competition. No one is grading you.
3. Think about your reader: Do not think about what you want to say, but what your reader will read.
4. Use simple and common words: Your job title explains your industry, field, and profession. Using complex and difficult words does not make you sound smart.
5. Read before you send: You need to read what you wrote at least once. It will sound different if you read it out loud. You can always ask someone, not part of your industry, to read your materials. If they do not understand, more than likely no one will understand.
Hopefully, you found this to be informative and educational. I hope that every message you send is the one that is received.
Thank you very much.
*By the way, if you are interested in knowing the simplified version of the statement at the top, this is what it could look like.
“Please go to the TSA office, which is located next to the post office.
Let them know that you are an Olympic athlete and need a visitor’s pass.
Please fill out the form that they give you. You will get a visitor’s pass.
Ask for your point-of-contact information.
If you have a mobile phone, please scan the QR code, to get your point-of-contact information.
The QR code is located on the door of the TSA office.”
Over the course of this month, Chamber member Spring Insight, a digital strategy firm here in Bethesda, has been exploring areas of risk that your website opens that have the potential to damage your overall business. We have seen these vulnerabilities impact small businesses that we talk to in real and damaging ways, and we are here to keep you informed so you can sidestep these risks and use your time to focus on the important stuff like attending Chamber meetings.
Our first item is accessibility. To be honest, this is a topic we have been obsessing over in recent months. We recently covered the topic as it pertains to websites, so we will only lightly touch on it here. What is website accessibility, you ask? Basically, it is creating a website with the proper colors, tools, and coding so that anyone, regardless of any auditory, cognitive, neurological, speech, or visual difficulties, can not only visit the site but also navigate it and process the information contained.
Website accessibility is becoming increasingly important both as a humanitarian gesture and as good business. Why? There are a myriad of reasons, but one we are closely watching is that it is starting to show up on the radar of the all-mighty Google. Plus, if your business gets behind the eight-ball on accessibility, you are opening yourself up to the real risk of having it completely inaccessible to anyone. To more fully understand the subject, check out our article discussing why you should care about website accessibility.
At Spring Insight, we fully understand what your business stands to lose if a potential customer visits your website and finds it painfully slow, outdated, clunky when it comes to conversion, or shut down completely. You lose leads, tarnish your reputation, and ultimately, get less dollars in the bank.
On top of that, your website is at real risk for infiltration when it is not properly maintained. Perhaps I shouldn’t disclose this particular piece of advice because we have won business from businesses whose sites have been hacked and needed to be rebuilt. Something as seemingly innocuous as an outdated plugin can leave your website open to hackers.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are three simple steps you can take to minimize website maintenance-related risks.
There is a lot more to learn about these important maintenance tips, check it out by reading Spring Insight’s detailed article on the topic here.
Contact Form Spam
Last but not least, let us talk about the contact form. Can you think of another part of your website that brings you such joy and pain? On the one hand, that is where new prospective leads come from. More often, instead of incoming leads the contact form ends up bringing us loads of spam, or worse yet, phishing attempts.
Contact form spam, at its most basic level, is unwelcome or unsolicited email that comes from your website. It can range from the annoying (Hello! I run a virtual assistant company and I am sure we can help you!) to the unsettling (Hello, I am Toya and I want to be your wife) to the unsafe (Hello, I noticed a vulnerability in your website. I can help you fix it.) In other words, this is the stuff that you mostly delete from your inbox and move on with your day. But, not so fast.
Sure, most of them are easily identifiable as total junk. I have to admit that others are more convincing. The thing is, if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t be around. Want to know what Spring Insight recommends you do to protect your site from this risk? Find the solutions in our full write up of the article here.
You are interested in keeping your website free from the problems associated with these risks. Of course you are! But we get it. When you are running a business, website risk protection may seem like too much trouble. How about hiring a web consultancy to manage your website that is always looking out for these things? Contact us. We are Chamber members and a proud local business in Bethesda!
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