Author Archives: Center for Plain Language
Broadcast March 9, 2012
“Why are agreements and contracts getting longer?
One reason: The same reason some coffee shop chains put CAUTION: VERY HOT on their foam coffee cups.
Companies are saying they’re required, by law, to include more and more information each day. Things like privacy policies. Warnings for a phone, gadget, or appliance on how you should and shouldn’t use it.
Because of this, the Center for Plain Language is calling on government agencies and businesses to make agreements understandable and readable. Each year it puts out a list of the most confusing documents out there, from health insurance forms to software agreements and car seat installations.
“Nobody’s going to read that and understand it without spending days or weeks trying to decipher it,” said the Center’s Henry Maury.
A company called Transparency Labs has done a study, and found less than 1 in 10,000 Americans actually reads the fine print, and it costs the average household up to $3,000 a year in fees and charges.”
By Bill Tomison with Susan Hogan
In this podcast, Annetta Cheek talks with Helen Osborne about:
- Plain language: What it is and why it is needed for all types of documents.
- Plain language legislation: How government communications affect everyone.
- Practical ways to help overcome a “culture of complex communication.”
If you’ve ever bought a house, you probably remember the pages and pages of documents you signed. You probably wished they could be clearer and make more sense.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) thinks these forms can be clearer, too. They’ve been working on a new standard for mortgage disclosures — those forms that summarize the costs of a home loan.
The CFPB project, Know Before You Owe, has collected input from thousands of people in both in-person usability testing and through online comments collected on their web site.
In a story on CBS News, we found a photo of President Obama holding a version of the proposed form. Here’s what CBS News reported about the President’s comments:
“The president recalled his and First Lady Michelle Obama’s experience buying their first home together – a process he described, humorously, as so complicated that the two of them would end up looking through the forms and asking “what does this phrase mean?”
“And that’s, you know, for two trained lawyers,” he laughed.
He held up a one-page mock-up of what he wants such forms to look like in the future, and pointed to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a means to achieving that end. …
The goal, he said, was to make things “simple, not complicated,” to protect consumers from getting “cheated.”
“Terms are clear. Fees are transparent,” he said.”
That’s plain language at work!
Obama unveils mortgage refinancing plan by Lucy Madison, CBS News Political Hotsheet, February 1, 2012
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants public input about your experience with private student loans, by January 17, 2012. (more…)
The power of words to change how people hear a message. Change your words. Change your world.
This short film is from a web content agency in the UK. See the video on YouTube for credits.
Please consider submitting comments by October 11, 2011 on a proposed federal rule which includes a new consumer-friendly health insurance disclosure form and a glossary for insurance companies to use.
Interview with Annetta Cheek, September 30, 2011
Plain language in government documents is now the law, but changing the culture of “government-speak” to stay compliant can be a challenge for many agencies. So the Center for Plain Language is hosting a hands-on workshop to help feds cut through the acronyms, ambiguous phrases, and long-winded explanations.