In so many areas of our lives, things are way too complicated. Applying for a job? Awesome, if you have 45 minutes to fill out a form with the exact same information from the resume you already uploaded. Buying a car? It’s a cinch, as long as you’ve got an afternoon to spend reading the fine print. Going to the doctor? It’s easy, once you’ve filled out these ten new patient forms.
Ensuring that written materials are easy to understand and use often starts with plain language best practices and includes field testing to “test” the content, format, and messages with the intended audience. Developers agree that user-centered design and feedback from intended audiences are critically important to developing clear, understandable, and useable information. However, there are often challenges to soliciting meaningful input from the “right” audience members, specifically, those with low literacy or low health literacy.
In the Broadway musical Hamilton, with these words, Alexander Hamilton, the “ten dollar Founding Father without a father” commits to fight for freedom for the American colonies. Now three U.S. Congressmen are taking their shot, committing to fight for freedom from bureaucratic language for American citizens.
On Friday, March 16, Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA), Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) announced the introduction of the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” Act.
Does your organization rely on readability formulas? A research review by Dr. Karen A. Schriver—“Plain Language in the United States Gains Momentum: 1940–2015”—takes a hard look at readability formulas. Schriver finds that readability formulas are often unreliable and invalid methods of evaluating text quality.
Okay, raise your hand if you like to win.
Now, keep it up if you like to be recognized for your great work.
And, keep it up if you LOVE filling out long forms and writing up a check request for the entry fee for an awards program for which your odds of winning are just slightly better than the average Powerball drawing.
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.