Listen. Learn. Talk. Plan. Train. Support.
Our clients come to us for help with their written communications.
We might suggest customised training courses, editing services or something different.
We’ll do anything we can to to help you to ensure customer communications are clear and effective. The first step is to talk to us. After that, we’ll work with you to create a programme that suits your needs.
To give you an idea of how we can help, here are four case studies: an insurance company, a consumer agency, a university and a law firm.
Case study – an insurance company
Challenges – to use plain English and comply with the CPC
We met with managers and staff to learn about the challenges in customer communications. A key issue was compliance with Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code (CPC), which requires regulated financial services to provide all information for customers in plain English.
Together, we developed a programme to address the issue, which included meetings with underwriters who were developing products and updating brochures.
Training – for key staff
We designed customised training courses for small groups. The practical exercises in these one-day and half-day sessions were based on in-house examples. All key personnel attended during 2012 and 2013. Currently, two refresher courses are provided each year, open to any staff who would like to attend.
Courses for groups of up to 12 participants were:
- Writing in Plain English – for mixed customer-facing teams (including marketing)
- Plain English for Effective Emails – for Customer Support staff
- Plain English Letters – for specific sales teams
- Plain English for Underwriters – who were updating product brochures
- One-to-one coaching for the plain English ‘gatekeeper’
Editing – to empower staff writers
To provide examples of how to ‘translate’ insurance jargon into plain English without changing its meaning, we edited sections of existing product brochures. This was to support teams working on new product brochures, and was done just after the relevant training.
Supporting – with an in-house writing guide
We created a 14-page Guide to Plain English to provide a resource for all writers – available on their intranet and in a booklet. Its aim was to promote a clear, consistent style for all customer communications. Topics included: how to write plain English, how to write clearly, effective greetings and sign-offs, how to avoid jargon, and punctuation rules.
Case study – a consumer agency
Challenges – how to keep it simple and professional
Agencies set up to help the public to understand their rights – and how to access them – know that plain English is the best way to write. The challenge lies in trying to explain complex topics in a simple way, without changing the meaning or seeming unprofessional.
Solutions – to achieve clarity and consistency
We have provided training for many staff in how to write plain English for a wide audience, since 2012. Some courses covered the basic principles and practice of writing plain English and others focused on specific types of writing, such as customer emails and letters. All courses were customised to use content based on the needs of the writers and the organisation.
Editing – plain English ‘makeovers’
We act as the final plain English ‘gatekeeper’ – to help to ensure a consistent style and tone as well as to check that all publications will be accessible to a wide audience. Since 2010, we have assessed a wide variety of material and provided a plain English ‘makeover’ if required. We also edit and proofread most fact-sheets, guides and web content before publication.
Case study – a university
Challenges – to write clear correct English
Academics. Most academic staff were experts in writing for academic purposes but had little experience of writing for a wider audience in an accessible style and tone of voice. Some lecturers and researchers identified challenges in providing constructive feedback to students and peers, and in editing their own work. Some were also unsure about current best practice in punctuation, grammar and use of English.
Support staff. During their performance evaluations, many support staff had requested training in writing skills – as they write for internal and external audiences, but had never received specific training. Many were keen to brush up on rules of grammar and punctuation.
Training – for academics and support staff
The aim was to increase confidence for attendees in their existing writing skills and also to share useful techniques and strategies to help them to write more effectively.
Most training courses were provided for mixed groups of academics and support staff, to encourage networking and build an understanding of the challenges each group faces. Practical exercises were based on typical university materials and on documents provided by attendees. These courses continue to be delivered regularly over the academic year.
One-day and half-day courses have been provided for groups of up to 14:
- Minute-taking Made Easy
- Editing and Proofreading for Professionals
- Editing and Proofreading for Academics
- Writing for the Web
- Writing Effective Reports
- Writing Effective Letters
Supporting – with a Writing for the Web style guide
During plans to re-write the university’s website, managers identified the need for a style guide to ensure consistency in the approach, tone and style of all web content. We created an online style that covered planning and writing effective content, in-house style decisions, punctuation, an A-Z of English usage and useful resources.
Case study – a law firm
Challenges – to write clearly for different audiences
A survey found that clients wanted clear, concise information they could understand without needing a follow-up meeting or phone call.
The key issue identified was that many solicitors had never been trained to write for clients who are not legal experts. This meant they used legal jargon, overlong sentences and a structure that was not suitable for a non-legal readership.
Further research into client communications revealed that some support staff were unsure of correct grammar and punctuation rules and of how to write clear professional emails.
Solutions – to help to reduce ‘legalese’
Training – for solicitors and support staff
The solution was to develop a wide range of half-day training courses on drafting and good grammar, for small groups of fee earners, trainees, marketing staff and support teams. These were based on authentic materials – memos, emails and letters.
We also developed practical training to help fee earners to think and write like journalists – so they could create readable articles for their e-zine and for commercial publications.
- Drafting in Clear English – for fee earners and trainees
- Writing E-zine Articles – for fee earners
- Writing for Commercial Publications – for fee earners
- Refresher: Grammar and Punctuation – for mixed groups
- Plain English Refresher – for fee earners
- One-to-one coaching for fee earners and marketing staff
Supporting – with a quick guide
To provide a permanent support – and to ‘embed the training’ – we created a quick guide on good grammar and punctuation. This handy guide is provided in hard copy to make it easy to access. We also contributed to the in-house style guide for client communications.