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.”
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