In 2006, I was working as a writer-editor in the regulatory shop of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for providing legal immigration benefits and services. Any one of our regulations could affect thousands to millions of people, many of whom didn’t speak English as a first language. So we had to get the language right.
Plain Language Blog Articles
Now that the frenetics of launching the annual ClearMark Awards are over, the Center for Plain Language had a chance to chat with two leaders from a great social media advisor/aide: Circuit Media, based in Denver, CO.
By Tanner Call I’ve recently been the target of a clever direct mail scam. It involves convincing the potential victim that their vehicle’s warranty is about to expire and that they need to renew it soon. The letter includes “official” components such as a barcode, logo, reference number, and even a chart with a summary […]
A few weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate. That’s not news.
Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) stated the obvious: “Here’s what everyone’s been trying to tell you today — and I say it gently — your user agreement sucks.” Senator Kennedy suggested that Mr. Zuckerberg tell his $1,200/hour lawyer to write the agreement in English, “so the average American user can understand.”
Facebook knows how to do this, at least fairly well. So why didn’t they?
A friend on Facebook recently posted, “I just got an email from Blue Cross urging me to ‘use my benefits’ because the end of the year is coming. Honestly have no idea what to make of that.” Especially since after two emergency room visits, “I have super definitely ‘used my benefits’ this year.”
Writing for health insurance customers is tough.
It’s a phrase that’s often tossed around. But how often do we use it when we should? Plain language is communication your reader can understand immediately. It requires that readers be able to find what they need, understand what they find, and then use that information for their own benefit. It’s not enough for them to understand one sentence of text; it must all work together.