Copy test: how to handle functional illiteracy?

In The Netherlands 2.5 million people are considered functionally illiterate. These individuals are still able to read and write, but they experience difficulty understanding the content. Being functionally illiterate means a person can have trouble comprehending emails and written reports in their work environment. It also means they will have a hard time filling out complex forms, digesting medical and financial leaflets, or even reciting books to their children. These individuals naturally make up a portion of your audience – but how clear or murky is your messaging to them?

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Finding an answer to this may seem easy. You can simplify your written content and avoid using flowery language rich with difficult words. But there’s much more to it than that. As a communication professional, you need to consider several important factors when producing your content…

If your communication features any financial, legal, medical or technical information, consider that this text can be full of confusing terminology and industry jargon. What do your colleagues think of the text you have produced? Can they even understand the blurb on compound interest? It’s highly likely that your communication is too long and far too complex for a functionally illiterate person to absorb. And that’s a problem.

Let’s go one step further – if your communication is representing one of your clients, how will they react knowing the text potentially goes over the head of a large proportion of their target audience? Exactly. Delivering your client’s message as clearly as possible should be a top priority (it’s ours), as it will deliver positive results for everyone involved.

These problems all have solutions. We’ve collected our insider tips to guide you toward that goal of writing a perfect piece of communication that appeals your audience, including those who are functionally illiterate:

6 clear letter writing essentials

  • Set your target – Focus on the key message to reach that target, requesting the opinion of your colleagues when it comes to clarity.
  • Don’t use difficult words – Use simple synonyms to make the same point.
  • Do use signal words – They will help your reader navigate through the text.
  • Don’t write in a complex style – Avoid long sentences by keeping the style short and sharp.
  • Do use pictures and infographics – Images make it easier to interpret concepts than words alone. Plus, they look cool.
  • Don’t write passively – Avoid waffling and the unnecessary use of words to describe something that’s actually quite straightforward.

Get an official sense check

At Sprint, we are experts at testing written communications to ensure they make sense to a specific audience. We provide this professional service in such a way that you not only gain a clear indication of the current state of your text, but we suggest immediate points of improvement too.

Our process involves selecting 100 people from your target group and spending 24 hours gathering feedback from them, based on certain criteria, to assess your marketing content.

With our Copy Test, you can get concrete answers to important questions:

  • Is the key message clear to your target group?
  • Does your target group remember the key message?
  • Are there are any questions that remain unanswered?
  • What are your target groups’ likes and dislikes – are the paragraphs too long? Words too complicated? Concept too vague?
  • What does your text need to make your key message more powerful?

Your invitation: copy check and feedback in 24 hours

We invite you to send us your written content, and we will hand you the results of your Copy Test in just 24 hours. Our recommendations will be realistic and actionable, so you can make immediate changes to improve the content before your audience see it.

A Copy Test with us involves engaging 100 individual respondents from your target audience from as little as €695. You’ll be doing everything in your power to ensure your message doesn’t end up in a bin somewhere!

Still having doubts whether this is a solid investment in your marketing content? Of course it would be cheaper not to test your content, but consider this: how much time and budget resource does it cost to write a really, really good piece of copy? Add to that the cost of distributing your communication, follow-up customer service calls triggered from an unclear message, overtime for staff cleaning up the miscommunication… you get the picture.

Your audience may not be ready for your content yet, but we certainly are!