Documents that (don’t) work

January 27, 2010 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

Have you ever come across a document that didn’t work for you? I bet you have. Just last week, I encountered a small yet relevant example myself.

The document…

I was delivered a parcel and because I wasn’t home, the courier service left me a card detailing what to do to arrange for a re-delivery or pick-up. I had the choice of having the parcel re-delivered to the same address, to a different address or picking it up myself. The card also provided additional instructions; it told me how soon items could be re-delivered and that I needed to present an ID when I wanted my item re-delivered to a different address. So far, so good.

worked for me…

I decided to pick up my parcel. The card provided the pick-up location and opening hours which was great. Of course, the pick-up location for couriers often happens to be a bit further out of town. I have a car, so I’m lucky. I got there, parked my car close-by (plenty of parking available) and made my way to the counter where I was greeted not only by a friendly member of staff but also by a sign stating that an ID must be presented to collect the item.

but wouldn’t have worked for Bob…

I said I was lucky. All I had to do is march back to my car and get my driver licence. However, I could have been an elderly person without a car and no driver licence. Let’s call him Bob. Since the card did not tell Bob to bring along an ID to pick up his parcel, I doubt that he would have thought of taking his passport (or birth certificate).

yet could work easily for everyone…

One additional instruction on the card could have helped Bob and prevented him from having to embark on a strenuous bus journey across town twice.

Sometimes it’s only one extra line that can make a document so much more user-friendly, but often it’s more than that. Think of seemingly contradicting instructions on how to put together a shelf, or the latest letter from your bank that requires a degree in accounting or finance to understand it.

If you want to know how to write documents that work, check out our free information session.

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