How many of us can say that we really understand our medical aid benefits? Do we know what our household insurance policy covers, and what it excludes? And do we understand how our retirement fund works?
We should. It’s important information, and we should understand it. But a lot of companies don’t make it easy. This, for example, comes from my pension plan document. They’re talking about conversion (I know this because that’s the heading in the section). It goes like this…
“When we convert an existing plan to this type of plan, we refer to it as a conversion. For administration purposes we allocate a new plan number.”
Okay, got it. But then it goes on…
“The amount that is transferred from the existing plan is equal to the one-off payment on the start date of the conversion. This one-off payment will, however, be included in the build up of the recurring fund and not in the build up of the one-off fund.”
By now my eyes have glazed over. I know this is important. I really do. But it’s just too difficult to try and work out what they’re trying to say. And so I move on. I will never know whether conversion is good or bad, and whether or not I should do it. More importantly, I’m irritated because they’ve made me feel stupid. It also makes me think that perhaps they don’t really want me to understand what they’re saying. So, should I trust their information?
Is this how any company wants their clients to feel about them?
This small example shows why writing in plain language is so important. Writing using plain language:
- Makes it easier to read and understand complicated information
- Gets the message across more easily and more often
- Makes it easier to trust what’s being written
- Lessens the chance of misunderstandings
- Minimises frustration
Companies that take their clients seriously should take plain language seriously too. Plain language makes good business sense. It results in communication that is clearer and easier to understand. It shows clients that you believe they’re important. And it creates trust in what you say. Can you afford not to speak plainly?