Sara Cobbett has written an interesting article on LinkedIn discussing the findings of a study which had 11 year-old's read and reflect on life insurance policy documents. That's right - testing policy documents on children, because this is the state of adult literacy:
The UK's Skills for Life survey that out of adults aged 16-65 the following had poor literacy:
- 25.8% had literacy equivalent of GCSE grade D to G
[Translation / equivalent NCEA level one, age 16 equivalent qualification - not achieved, or failed English at School C if you are a little older]
- 15% had literacy level around 11 year-old standard
- 5% had literacy skills of a 5-7 year-old
That's a total of about 45% of the UK population. Reading ability comparisons are available, we reviewed several when we were designing readability scores, and the situation here in New Zealand is not very different. Sara Cobbett poses some good, challenging, questions about the design of policy documents, given that situation:
Would you read 50 pages of text about a product you’re about to buy? How about 20 pages? Or even 10 pages? Lower than 10 - say 6?
A cynic in the consumer movement might say that documents of 50+ pages, lots of long words, and compound documents (requiring a reader to look at several parts of the document such as schedule, definitions of terms, definitions of conditions, and even separate documents) all add up to a very effective way of ensuring that consumers do not know what they are buying. I prefer to think that we just gradually got ourselves into this mess, with plenty of help from legislators and lawyers along the way, and we now need to sustain long-term effort to get ourselves out of it.
The whole article is well worth a read. If you care about reducing complaints and improving the communication with your customers, whether you are an insurer writing policies, a financial adviser writing advice, or a direct marketer writing ad copy, you should read the whole article. Click here.