Improve your reputation with plain language
Your reputation has never been more important. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, people now trust businesses more than they trust the government. So how do you make your business stand out?
One easy way to improve or maintain your reputation is with plain language. Research shows that 84% of people are ‘more likely to trust a company that uses jargon-free language in its communications.’
Plain language can help you create a reputation as a company that:
- communicates transparently
- responds to customers quickly and clearly
- writes for its audience.
When businesses use convoluted language or technical jargon, customers may think the business has something to hide. This is not ideal for your reputation.
But plain language is transparent and allows customers to be confident in your products or services.
Plain language asks writers to use the active voice where possible. This encourages the writer to use language that is more precise and accountable. For example:
Passive voice: The company may require an audit of the business comprising an examination of such business records as necessary to ascertain financial results for the period in question.
Active voice: We might need to audit your business records to confirm the financial results for the period.
Respond to customers quickly and clearly
If you build a reputation as a responsive company, you’ll find that clients are more likely to recommend you.
Plain language helps with this by being significantly quicker to write. We’ve found that clients who complete a plain English reform program reduce their document drafting time by up to 50%. Using plain language lets you respond to customers quickly and clearly.
It can also help you avoid misunderstandings and disputes in the first place. When clients can easily understand what they’re agreeing to, they are less like to feel like they’ve been misled or taken advantage of.
Research shows that interventions such as letter or email templates can reduce customer complaints by 78%. This frees up the time your team would have spent responding to complaints and allows them to put this time into responding to customers quickly.
Write for your audience
About 40% of Australians read at a year 10 level or below. Elements that affect literacy include people’s linguistic background, education, age and ability. As a result, there’s a chance your customers might not easily or fully understand what you’ve written to them.
Plain language can help you communicate more effectively with everyone, as well as broaden your audience by communicating in a way that’s accessible to more people.
Using the active voice will help, but you can make your writing more accessible by:
- shortening your sentences
- using short and simple words that still convey your meaning.
See the difference plain language makes, for example:
Original: Please be advised that the requested records cannot be released as they are exempt pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
Plain language: We can’t send you the information you’ve asked for because it’s protected by the Freedom of Information Act.
We also cover the basics for accessibility in MS Word in our free Australian Style Guide.
If you invest in making your communications more accessible, you may find you gain a reputation for being approachable, customer-centric and reliable. Customers want to be treated like real people and spoken to in words they’ll understand. If you can do this, prospective customers might be more likely to engage with you because they can.
Hire an editor
We provide premium plain English consulting and editing services that can radically improve your documents and transform your writing culture. From multinational businesses, state and federal government departments to not-for-profit organisations, we can help you build and maintain your reputation through clear and consistent communications.