Readability has been shown to save companies time and money. Why should you include it in your style guide?

What are the benefits of readability? 

Readability - using plain language wherever possible - saves companies and customers time and money. 

It reduces admin and legal costs

Unclear language causes problems and increases enquiries. Staff time spent on poor communication is costly. Legal help to decipher it worsens this waste of resources.

Readable writing does the opposite. If you get the message right the first time, it rarely calls for an enquiry. And if you cut through the legalese, staff and customers alike are on the same page. 

It builds trust 

Taking the time to know how to speak to your customers is a sign of respect. Using clear language also shows you have nothing to hide. Using opaque language and passive voice makes you look less responsible and credible. Make the right choice to maintain a good reputation. 

People, whether they are your customers or your coworkers, will respect you for taking a no-nonsense approach.

The best companies are using it

Some of the best examples of clear communication have readability embedded in their style guidelines. 

For example, Microsoft’s brand voice ‘hinges on crisp simplicity’. In their guidelines, they state they write for ‘scanning first, reading second’. 

They make a great point about scannability, which is a key principle of readability. When people read on the internet, they tend to scan. Readable takes this into account. We go beyond outdated and limited solutions. Readable is up to speed - learn more.

Monzo are another good example of having a customer-friendly approach. This is aided by readability. They use plain language guidelines in their terms and conditions

Complex language - what does it cost? 

Complex language costs time and money. Much of the latter is due to the former. The more time it takes to understand your content, the longer it takes for people to understand. This could be people within your company as well as your customer or the general public. 

It makes people’s jobs harder

Let’s imagine you run an insurance company. Your policies are written in complicated, opaque language. Not only will your customers struggle to understand it, but your staff will, too. How can your staff advise customers effectively if they don’t fully understand it? Complex language makes people’s jobs harder - from training to selling, your company material needs to be clear. 

It brings work to a standstill

No work can get done in a business with poor communication. Communication contributes greatly to streamlining business processes - so clarifying your language business-wide is hugely beneficial.

It increases information requests 

If your language is too complicated or is phrased in a way which is confusing, you’ll generate questions instead of providing answers. If your customers don’t understand your forms or your content, they’ll be sure to get in touch. How much time is going on answering questions that wouldn’t need to be asked in the first place if your writing were clearer?

Is there proof that readability saves money? 

Professor Joseph Kimble wrote a book, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please. It is dedicated to plain language and its potential to save a huge amount of money in businesses, governments and organisations. 

In the book, he outlines validating studies. Here are a few key examples he discusses in the book.

Readability saved UK’s Royal Mail £500,000 in 9 months

One example is Royal Mail. Siegel & Gale, pioneers in the plain language movement, revolutionised their documents. Before their help clarifying a redirection-of-mail form, RM had 87% error rate. Customers struggled to understand the form. 

Royal Mail accepted responsibility for clarifying their language for their customers. It benefited them as well as their readers - to the tune of £500,000. This is because, before the fix, they were spending over £10,000 a week to deal with complaints and resolve the incorrect forms. Their new and improved form, applying principles of readability, had clear and dramatic results. 

This Royal Mail case clearly proves readability is worth investing in. Plain language seriously cuts costs, both in the short and long term.

US Centre for Disease Control improved pamphlet readership by 32%

When serving the general public, it’s vital to get through to your readers. This case was a comparison of a traditional to a revised pamphlet. The pamphlet was about a polio vaccine. 81% of parents visiting pediatric clinics in the study said they’d be more motivated to read the revised pamphlet. 

Misunderstanding breeds fear. This study has encouraging implications. Increased readability leads to increased confidence in medical choices. This benefits public health. Putting less strain on health services saves the medical sector money in the long run.  

US Government reduced comprehension errors by 45%

US Government’s Veterans Administration wanted to improve their letters to veterans. Once again, the revised letter was preferred to the traditional letter. 

56% of the veterans in the study failed to understand the traditional letter. With the revised, more readable letter, this figure dropped to just 11%. 0% of veterans considered the letters somewhat difficult after readability was improved. 

Plain language is vital in government. It builds trust and improves the relationship between the government and its citizens. In addition, it saves the government money because it decreases staff time. 

How can I use Readable to save time and money? 

Audit your website

ReadableWeb will help you go beyond reading ease and take a holistic approach to language optimisation. Make sure your website is professional, clear and trustworthy in its content. You can request a free sample report to get an idea of the reports we offer.  

Edit your content in real-time 

Be sure to get more out of editing than spelling and grammar suggestions. As well as spelling and grammar highlights, we have highlights and suggested alternatives for difficult words. We also highlight for lazy words, long sentences, passive voice and much more. We strive to give you the most comprehensive readability tool available. Our free demo is a great place to start.

Integrate readability into your workflow

Readable’s API allows you to seamlessly integrate Readable into your software or CMS. Get suggestions for clarity without breaking your workflow. More about our API

Do you have a story about saving time and money by clarifying your language? Get in touch with us or leave a comment below. 

Laura Kelly

Laura is a freelance writer and worked at Readable for a number of years. Laura is well-versed in optimising content for readability and Readable's suite of tools. She aims to write guides that help you make the most out of Readable.