When something catastrophic happens at home, you need to act fast. Can you imagine trying to get help like this?
“I need to undertake a disclosure with you. I’ll give you the full particulars. A bodily injury has occurred directly or indirectly. And I’m worried about the remediation. Can I priority request you and your apparatus be utilised to assist with the contamination damage?”
These convoluted phrases pepper real insurance documents. But when people need to understand what’s covered and how to make a claim, they need clear, accurate information that’s easy to navigate.
We’re thrilled that more insurance companies are taking this seriously.
Some companies are working hard on their legalese, rewriting dense, internally focused policies, forms, and letters so they are easy to read, easy to understand, and written for the reader rather than the writer.
And each year a few more make the WriteMark grade.
Tower Insurance is one of the latest. Tower’s recent commercials proudly proclaim that they now have the WriteMark on 14 home, contents, and vehicle policies. Their campaign dismantles difficult words and shows the difference straightforward language can make.
Tower’s image of the word ‘appurtenance’ exploding symbolises their mission to simplify insurance.
And it had us scratching our heads.
Because, even though our WriteMark assessors include authors, linguists, editors, teachers, and all-round word nerds, many of us didn’t know what ‘appurtenance’ meant.
These are people who send emails headed ‘Noun string of the day’, and can spend half an hour discussing the subtle difference between ‘moved home recently’ or ‘recently moved home’. They savour the richness, elegance, and (let’s be honest) perverseness of the English language.
We can all appreciate that ‘appurtenance’ is a lovely-sounding word with a fascinating etymology.
Middle English apertenant, from Anglo-French appurtenant, present participle of apurtenir to belong — more at ‘appertain’
Middle English apperteinen, from Anglo-French apurtenir, from Late Latin appertinēre, from Latin ad- + pertinēre to belong — more at ‘pertain’
But we’re also citizens and policy holders, who need to find our way through important information, often under stress. In times like these we want clarity, not a linguistic lift. We want information where writers have put the effort in to help us make decisions and take action.
We know it’s not straightforward, and companies that have reached the WriteMark Standard for some documents deserve recognition for their courage and commitment. And once one or two documents have met the Standard, it’s very easy to spot those that still need work.
Congratulations to Tower!
In home insurance, an appurtenance is a piece of property associated with the main dwelling. For example, it includes the garden and trees, and other structures on the property such as garages, decks, and swimming pools. It also includes items that are in some way part of the house, such as air-conditioning units, furnaces, and septic systems.
— many of which could catch on fire!