Plain Language Standard

Three reasons to get the WriteMark on shorter documents

Wide shot of a multi-level library with white staircases and bookshelves.

We’d love to help you achieve the WriteMark on the whole library of documents you use to communicate with customers | Photo by Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash.

Most documents that hold the WriteMark are on the longer side. Achieving the Standard takes time and effort. That time and effort feels better spent when — at the end of it all — you can proudly display the WriteMark logo on an important 100-page document, rather than an everyday 1-pager, right?

But which of your public-facing documents do people look at most often? Which do you think your customers are more likely to read from start to finish?

You’ll get the best value out of the WriteMark by achieving the Standard and displaying the logo on the documents that are most important to your readers. We’re willing to bet they’re not always your longest.

Here are three reasons why the WriteMark is right for shorter documents.

1. Short documents often leave a bigger impression on your readers

Consider which of your public-facing documents are the most important to you, and which are the most important to your readers. Are they the same documents? Or are you overlooking other documents that have more impact on your customers’ experience?

Three reasons to get the WriteMark on shorter documents WriteMark

Your longest documents might seem the most important, but readers often spend more time and engage more deeply with short, everyday documents |Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash.

For example, lots of insurance product disclosure statements in New Zealand hold the WriteMark. A product disclosure statement (PDS) is the main policy document that sets out all the benefits, exclusions, terms, and conditions of cover. It’s an important document for both insurers and their customers.

But many customers will never read their PDS cover to cover. They’ll dip into a few sections as and when they need them. Making the PDS as clear as possible is still vital, but it’s unlikely to be the document that insured customers spend the most time with.

Instead, those customers spend more time on shorter documents: things like policy schedules, application forms, renewal letters, claims processes, websites, and correspondence. These ‘satellite’ documents may seem less important, but they’re the ones customers are actually reading. As a result, they play an outsized part in building confidence and trust.

That’s why getting short documents right can make a big difference, and leave a bigger impression.

2. WriteMark requirements make short documents focused and functional

The WriteMark Standard has 25 requirements, ranging from the ‘big picture’ (things like smart structure and clear purpose) to the minute details of language and presentation. Some of these 25 requirements won’t apply to short documents — this makes them easy to meet!

But for many short documents, the WriteMark requirements can help you consider improvements you might otherwise overlook.

For example, you might think:

  • structure is less important when all your information fits on one page
  • headings aren’t needed for a document of only a few paragraphs
  • a bullet list is unnecessary when you’re only asking a reader to fill out a form.

But following the WriteMark requirements for structure, headings, and bullet lists — among other things — hones short documents to make them their best, punchiest, most practical versions:

  • A smart structure ensures you deliver information in a logical order, so readers build their understanding and know what to do.
  • Headings summarise key messages, clarifying purpose and supporting navigation.
  • Bullet lists enable readers to scan information easily and create extra white space.

All these elements make long documents simpler and more functional, but here’s the secret: they work for short documents too!

3. Customers expect consistent quality across the documents they read

Displaying the WriteMark on your biggest documents is a visible commitment to caring about your customers. Adding it to the surrounding constellation of shorter documents creates consistency in your brand values across all your communications.

Customers expect consistency from the businesses and organisations they deal with — even subconsciously. A poorly written webpage or letter template will stand out like a sore thumb. One complex and ambiguous communication can undermine the caring and conscientious brand value reflected in the WriteMark.

If you can make something as complex as an insurance PDS clear, why leave a claims form or FAQs page in the dense and ambiguous Dark Ages? Achieving the WriteMark on shorter documents signals a consistent, clear tone across the whole array of interactions you have with your customers.

We can assess short documents in batches, so the WriteMark is more cost-effective

If you’re concerned about the cost, we can work out a deal. Because it doesn’t take as long to assess short documents, we’re often happy to do them in batches.

This makes it even more cost-effective to achieve the WriteMark for your ‘daily drivers’ — those short, significant documents that your readers encounter every day.

We’d love to help you get the WriteMark on your library of short documents. Contact us today to discuss your documents, your readers, and to get a quote.

Send us some information about your short documents and we’ll be in touch


Simplified general insurance policies get tick for clarity

Photo image of a tree fallen on a silver car

When it comes to claim time, everyone knows exactly what’s covered and what’s not | Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

Insurance policies have a reputation for being hard to understand. Vero and ANZ have gone the extra mile to make the ANZ Asset Protector policy wording booklet easy to read. The booklet of five policy wordings meets the Standard for being clearly written and user-friendly.

When customers are choosing an insurance policy, they look for one they can understand. A clear policy document inspires trust in the insurance provider and supports a long-term relationship between insurance provider and customer. When it comes to claim time, everyone knows exactly what’s covered and what’s not.

Clear writing and user-testing made the difference

All five of the ANZ Asset Protector policy wordings have been awarded the WriteMark Plus. The policy wordings cover homes, contents, cars, boats, and lifestyle blocks.

To get the WriteMark, the policy wordings were written using plain language to clarify complexity. To get the ‘Plus’, they were user-tested with a sample of their target audience. Writers used the feedback from user-testers to further improve the clarity and usability of each policy wording.

The five policy wordings are bound into a booklet, which is available in print, and as a PDF on ANZ and Vero’s websites. People can choose from the range of policies, buying as few or as many policies from the booklet as they need.

Read the ANZ Asset Protector policy wording booklet at the ANZ website

Delivering a great outcome for customers

Sacha Cowlrick, Vero’s Executive Manager Consumer, explains that delivering great customer outcomes starts with ensuring customers understand their insurance.  So working with their partners at ANZ to deliver plain language policies has been a priority.

‘It’s about making it easy for our customers to understand what an insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, as well the responsibilities they have. Clarity and transparency in the policy wording is the recipe for great claims experiences. We’re confident that the simplified language, layout, and navigation in our new policy wordings will deliver this clarity.’

Sacha said the feedback from user-testing showed this too, with some participants surprised by the extent of policy cover.

‘User-testing also enabled us to check the parts of the policy wording that previously caused confusion or surprise for customers when making a claim. The new plain language wording has passed the test.’

Worthy of the ‘Plus’ — tested by the target audience

Lynda Harris, Chief Eexecutive of WriteMark and Write Limited, says she’s excited to know the ANZ Asset Protector policy wordings are joining the ranks of documents worthy of WriteMark Plus.

‘Achieving the WriteMark Plus is testament to a lot of hard work and shows true dedication to improving the customer experience.’

The WriteMark Plus is only awarded to documents and websites that:

  • meet the WriteMark’s rigorous standards for clear writing and reader-friendly design
  • have been user-tested to confirm that both the writing, and the content as a whole, are easily usable by the intended reader.

Check out the full list of WriteMark and WriteMark Plus holders

A plain language love story

Image, blonde woman in a yellow jacket facing away from the camera and holding her hands in a heart shape above her head

Image by Andre Furtado / Pexels licence

We’re head-over-heels for plain language, and we’re always excited when we find others who share our passion. Take Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI): we’ve just awarded the WriteMark to their new domestic travel policy.

SCTI decided the time was right to offer an insurance policy that would help New Zealanders feel safe and secure when travelling around New Zealand. The WriteMark shows that SCTI is dedicated to bringing their customers a policy that’s clear and easy to understand.

Nick Bassett, Acting Head of Sales, Product and Marketing, says they wrote the policy with their customers in mind:

We’re committed to providing our customers with excellent service, and knowing what they’re covered for when they buy their policy is incredibly important. The WriteMark stamp is an endorsement of transparency and integrity, which is why we’re so pleased to have launched our first policy document in plain language, and to have achieved this recognition.

To celebrate, we’ve created a video that showcases everything there is to love about an insurance policy with the WriteMark.

Your customers deserve a policy that understands them

Insurance should give us peace of mind because we know we have support in times of stress and uncertainty. A policy written with everyday words, short sentences, and useful headings locks in that peace of mind, because you know exactly what you’re covered for.

By writing your insurance policy in plain language, you’re showing that you care about your customers and can think from their perspective. Your transparency will help build their trust.

Learn more about writing insurance policies in plain language

Want to start your own plain language love story? Ask yourself what your reader needs from you, and make sure you deliver it in a way that’s easy to understand.

Insurance cover is complicated, and your readers will thank you for finding a way to lead them through it, without all the jargon. You’ll find lots of helpful tips in our easy-to-use checklist — the Write Plain Language Standard.

Download Write’s free Plain Language Standard
Take our Plain Language Foundations online course
Read our recent blog post on how plain language can help institutions win back trust
Find out more about getting a WriteMark assessment

Life isn’t fair — but how we act can be

Image, cover for the ICNZ Fair Insurance Code 2020

The Fair Insurance Code ticks all the boxes for insurers and consumers. CC-BY-NC-ND

Fairer insurance for all New Zealanders dovetails perfectly with the WriteMark’s mission of a fairer society where everybody can get the information they need.

This week the Insurance Council of New Zealand published the Fair Insurance Code 2020. The Code helps to build trust and confidence in the insurance industry, which may lead to a fairer financial system for all of us.

The Code safeguards consumers by committing general insurers to:

  • act honestly and fairly
  • develop, market, and sell insurance products responsibly
  • identify and address instances of poor conduct.

A fair code is a clear code

As the Code has reached a high standard for plain language, we’re pleased to say it has also earned the WriteMark. This means it has a clear purpose, structure, language, and design. Readers can understand and act on the information they need. For example, the Code tells readers at the start what to expect:

…The code describes how your relationship with your insurer should work, including what you need to tell them and how they need to respond.
The code:

  • explains what the Fair Insurance Code covers and who it applies to
  • describes the responsibilities you and your insurance company have
  • explains what should happen when you make a claim or a complaint.

The Code uses straightforward language that talks directly to readers and is easy to understand. Sentences are short and uncomplicated. The writers have also made sure the Code is accessible for readers and speakers of other languages, and have produced a version in New Zealand Sign Language.

Life isn’t fair — but how we act can be WriteMark

A financial band-aid should be fair and clear. Image by Franck V / Unsplash licence

Working together to support consumers

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi describes insurance as a critical service that needs to support consumer financial resilience, and not undermine it. When insurers comply with the Code, consumers will find it easier to access financial support when the unexpected happens.

Allowing the insurance industry to self-regulate works with the law and helps to:

  • put customers at the centre
  • push for culture change in the industry
  • set up robust internal processes.

More than the sum of its parts

The Fair Insurance Code has ticked boxes for all 28 elements of the WriteMark plain language standard. But the Code’s impact and clarity add up to a lot more than that — and that’s fair.

Read the Fair Insurance Code

Watch Hon Kris Faafoi introduce the Code