Here at Write, we spend a lot of time working on unclear forms and documents to fix tortuous sentence construction, poorly chosen words, and illogical layout. Often, we’re called in after the organisation has been hurt, with negative customer feedback, lost sales opportunities, lost time fixing customer or employee errors, and other costs of failed communication.
Unplain English costs untold millions in lost productivity. And now and again, the cost is even higher.
An investigation into a train crash in Australia found that the crash and resulting death were caused in part because workers were unable to understand what to put in a form.
The ATSB report found that workers didn’t clearly identify the location and type of work that would be carried out when filling out their Track Occupancy Authority (TOA) form, but this was due to a deficiency in the form.
As a result, officers assigned to the site believed the train had passed beyond the worksite before the work started.