Easy-to-read information saves time and money, provides people with good client service and makes their lives easier. It means that your readers will understand your documents better and faster. They do not need so much explanation and make fewer mistakes when filling in forms.
Research has shown that incomprehensible, unclear or unintelligible text causes cognitive strain. On the contrary, comprehensible, clear and intelligible text leads to cognitive ease. Our brain burns less energy, we do not get tired as fast, we have a feeling that we know the issue and that what we are reading is not only easy but also true.
Studies have calculated savings coming from using easy-to-read language. In some studies, public agencies or corporations have counted how much time it costs them when their employees spend time clarifying and trouble-shooting mistakes in forms, answering questions etc. Other studies have compared the time spent explaining text before and after easy-to-read edits. In all cases, easy-to-read language saved time and money for the agencies or corporations thanks to better and faster understanding.
Unclear and imprecise language often indicates unclear and imprecise thinking. If you know what to say and why, you typically don’t have much trouble formulating it precisely. Expertise typically has little to do with this. If you want to rewrite a complicated and unclear text into easy-to-read, you typically uncover mistakes and deficiencies, inconsistencies and lack of clarity, and sometimes even complete lack of actual substance.
A large German study shows that 14 percent of the population, or 7.5 million people in Germany, are functionally illiterate. The term “functionally illiterate” means that someone can read and write simple sentences but fails to comprehend a more complex sentence. Such limits to language skills means that these people cannot correctly solve everyday requirements stemming from life in a society.
You can find more information on US government’s Plain Language website. This article describes the results of analyses that have calculated the cost related to using difficult-to-comprehend language. Research materials from Germany are available in English and German.
We will gladly help your company or institution to convert documents and information sources based on the accessible society principles and easy-to-read information. If interested, please contact us at
What are the typical situations of our readers? What are the typical life situations they find themselves in?
Instead of “Applicant must fill in the form”, write “Fill in the form”.
First, describe what matters most, and only then significant exceptions. Write only what is necessary but do not expect the reader to already know.
Describe step by step.
(“The doctor will send you a letter.” Rather than: “You will be sent a letter.”)
In text or in a glossary at the end.
Use illustrations to accompany the text (photographs, pictograms or infographics)
short paragraphs, spacing between paragraphs, and legible font (sans serif).