The Financial Services Council asked us to do an in-depth edit of its Life Insurance Code of Practice. The aim of the Code is to protect customers and set a standard for insurers to follow when they issue life insurance policies in Australia.
The Code calls on members to use plain language in their dealings with customers, but it did not follow its own guidance! Just the type of document we love to sink our teeth into!
Our first step was to revise the structure of the existing document and make it easier for readers to use. We did this by:
- arranging the content into fewer sections
- improving the overall balance by grouping the material into roughly equal sections
- more closely following the logic of the life insurance process.
We also added new navigation elements:
- numbering at the top 2 heading levels to make it very clear where the reader is in the Code
- information-rich headings so readers can see the key points at a glance.
Step 2 was all about design. We came up with a new layout that was clean and accessible and ready for the desktop publishing process. The new design used plenty of white space, more lists and tables and smaller blocks of text. We also added a clear heading hierarchy with numbers and colours highlighting the main levels.
In our third step, we simplified the expression, particularly the sections that contained legal wording. We made sure there was a formal yet friendly tone throughout the code. We did this by switching to personal pronouns where possible, using more active verbs, choosing shorter words and breaking up long sentences.
Our final step was to apply a consistent style to ensure that numbers, capitals, punctuation and other elements were in line with the Australian Style Guide.
Together, all these changes resulted in a clear document with accessible content that is easy to read. The revised code was around 10% shorter than the original, but all the meaning was intact.
Postscript: The Financial Services Council has released an updated Code with more than 50 new consumer protections. We’re pleased to see that the Council has retained so many of the plain language features we introduced, while further enhancing the design and layout.