This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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28 January 2013

Testing, testing, 1-2-3...

If you're a business or government writer, it's a fair assumption that you want people to understand what you write. If you've read a lot of business and government documents, that assumption may take a battering.
In Writing for dollars, writing to please, Joseph Kimble gives three reasons why writers fail to write in a way that works for readers: 'lack of will, lack of skill, and lack of time.' We agree.

If you have the will, but not the time, you might need help to look at your document and understand what's wrong and how to fix it. You can fill that common skill gap by commissioning user testing and document assessment.

The two techniques reinforce one another, and we recommend both.

It's easier to show you than to tell you more - take a look at the user testing and WriteMark assessment report we included in a recent submission on KiwiSaver Regulations. (The link takes you to the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.)

Here's what you can expect from such a report.
  • User testing finds typical members of your target audience group, puts the document in their hands, and reports on the results. An expert facilitator can draw all sorts of information out of the test readers, and careful analysis of the interviews turns this into practical recommendations that will strengthen your document and improve your results.
  • Document assessment measures the document against an agreed plain English standard. The resulting report tells you the document's weaknesses (with examples) and strengths. You can easily see what needs fixing to make your document easy to understand and act on.
Read more about Joe's book in Steve O'Hagan's review, which we posted last November

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