Master Class grads boost readability by up to 300%
One of my favorite parts of my Catch Your Reader Master Class is our Cut Through the Clutter smackdown.
Using Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics, attendees edit their copy, bringing their Flesch Kincaid grade level down and their Flesch reading ease up.
Our Chicago Master Class winner increased reading ease by a remarkable 300%. Our runners-up didn’t do so badly either: Their scores soared by more than 225%.
What can you learn from these Master Class graduates’ successes to make your own messages easier to read and understand?
A 230% increase in readability
Jen Uschold is senior manager of internal communications for Direct Energy. In our Master Class, she transformed her original piece from a traditional news story to a feature and added some compelling display copy.
She also dramatically improved readability — by 38.6 points — from 16.8 points to 55.4. To do so, she:
- Streamlined sentences by 36%, from 21 words to 13.4 on average. (Sentence length is one of the top 2 ways to manage readability.)
- Slashed paragraph length by 32%, from 22 words to 15 words on average.
- Whittled the word count by 25%, from 465 words to 350.
- Cut word length by 18%, from 5.7 characters to 4.7. (Word length is the other top 2 way to manage readability.)
Here are her before-and-after scores:
Dependent Eligibility Verification Starts May 15th
How you can help
Direct Energy offers comprehensive and competitive benefit programs to attract and retain top talent. To ensure that we continue to offer affordable and comprehensive benefits, DE must control healthcare expenses. To manage costs and ensure that only eligible dependents are covered on our benefit plans, all employees with dependents enrolled in coverage will be required to verify their eligibility.
The Dependent Eligibility Verification process is new to DE, but it is an industry standard practice. This company-wide process will only happen once. Going forward, this process will be asked of any employee enrolling a dependent on our benefits plan.
Overview of the Dependent Eligibility Verification Process
- The Dependent Eligibility Verification Program will be conducted from May 4 — July 31, 2015.
- To ensure the confidentiality of our employees’ information, Dependent Eligibility Verification will be conducted by Benefitsolver, DE’s third-party benefits administrator.
- Beginning the week of April 27, DE and Benefitsolver will begin communicating this process to all employees with a dependent (spouse/domestic partner and/or children) enrolled in a Direct Energy medical, dental and/or vision health care plan requesting that they provide documentation to verify eligibility of their dependents. Communications will be sent via email and letters to the employees home.
- Acceptable documentation may include state or federal tax returns (within the last two years) showing married filing jointly or married filing separately; marriage certificates; court orders, birth certificates; and divorce decrees.
- If a dependent is found to be ineligible for coverage, the employee can remove the dependent from his/her plan during the Self-drop Period without any penalties.
- If the employee does not provide the requested documentation by the deadline, the dependent will be dropped from the employee’s plan on July 31, 2015.
- Dependents found to be ineligible will not be offered continuation of coverage through COBRA because discovery of ineligibility is not considered a COBRA qualifying event.
- An appeals process will be available for employees with extenuating circumstances that prevent them from being able to provide the required documentation within the specified timeline.
- Please direct all employee questions about this process, acceptable forms of documents and information about the appeals process directly to Benefitsolver at 1-800-588-9806 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. or by visiting benefitsolver.com.
- Week of April 27: Communications of the program begin to HRBPs, impacted employees and all people managers
- May 4 — May 15: Employees can request removal of ineligible dependents through Benefitsolver
- Week of May 11: Letter sent to impacted employees with covered dependents notifying them of the Dependent Eligibility Verification process
- May 18 — July 17: Required documentation to be provided to Benefitsolver
- July 20 — July 31 appeals process for ineligible dependents or insufficient support
- August 1: Termination of ineligible dependent coverage goes into effect.
Keep your family’s health covered.
You don’t want that $100 co-pay to become a $3,000 emergency room bill.
Imagine watching your 7-year old son attempt to jump the street curb on his bike. Instead, he slams into the curb and flies over the handlebars. You hear him screaming that he thinks he broke his arm as you get him into the car and head for the emergency room.
You don’t want to find out that he’s not covered on your medical plan while waiting for the x-rays because you didn’t confirm him as a qualified dependent.
Confirm your dependents between May 4 and July 17, 2015.
If you have dependents on your medical plan, you need to prove that they are qualified for coverage. You can do this by submitting specific documents to Benefitsolver between May 4 and July 17, 2015. Completing this request ensures that your family has medical coverage when they need it.
Confirming that your dependents are qualified to receive medical, dental and/or vision health care is new to DE, but it is an industry standard practice. If you carry a dependent that is not qualified for coverage, you can remove that person during this time-period.
How to verify your dependents?
- Look for a letter from Benefitsolver to the home address you have on file with Benefitsolver
- Read the letter to understand which documents are needed to prove eligibility
- Submit the required documents to Benefitsolver between May 4 and July 17, 2015
- Remove ineligible dependents from your plan
You only need to confirm your dependents one time while they are on your benefits plan. You will verify new dependents as you add them to your medical plan.
Don’t risk losing your family’s medical coverage. Submit the required documentation by July 17, 2015.
(Call out box:)
Which documents do you need to prove eligibility?
- State or federal tax returns showing either married filing jointly or married filing separately
- Marriage certificates
- Court orders
- Birth certificates
- Divorce decrees
Have questions? Call Benefitsolver at 1-800-588-9806 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT or visit benefitsolver.com.
A 226% increase in readability
You may have already seen Janelle Davis’ before and after. We called her out a few issues ago after the public relations strategist for the American Academy of Family Physicians did a remarkable job transforming a traditional inverted pyramid story into a feature.
Along the way, she also increased readability by more than 36 points, from 16.1 points to 52.5. To do so, she:
- Slashed paragraph length by 30%, from 34 words to 24 words on average.
- Cut back passive voice by 40%, from 15% to 9%.
- Streamlined sentences by 26%, from almost 19 words to 14 words on average. That’s the length recommended by the American Press Institute.
- Cut word length by 14%, from 5.7 characters to 4.9.
Here are her before-and-after scores:
The American Academy of Family Physicians is calling on food producers and the medical community to fight antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”
Antibiotics have saved the lives of countless people around the world, but their overuse and misuse has led to the emergence of drug resistant bacteria. The consequences are dire. Every year, antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people nationwide and kill at least 23,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The AAFP recognizes inappropriate use of antibiotics as a risk to both personal and public health and encourages only the appropriate use of these medications. Several groups, specifically those in the medical and food production communities, have the power to slow the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“As family physicians, we are deeply concerned about the threat that antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses to public health. This can’t be done alone. Everyone — particularly people in the medical and food production fields — can help combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Robert Wergin, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said.
The AAFP calls for food production-related measures that:
Reduce antibiotic use in food production
Require a proof of efficacy and a positive cost/benefit analysis for any antibiotics used in food production. The analysis should take into account the ultimate costs to human health care, including not just economic costs, but morbidity and mortality costs as well.
The AAFP calls on the medical community to administer antibiotics only when needed. As part of the Choosing Wisely campaign, the AAFP has identified recommendations that aim to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics. The Choosing Wisely campaign encourages specialty societies to identify commonly used tests or procedures that are possibly overused. The AAFP identified two procedures related to antibiotic use that physicians and patients should question. They include:
Don’t prescribe antibiotics for otitis media in children aged 2-12 years with non-severe symptoms where the observation option is reasonable.
Don’t routinely prescribe antibiotics for acute mild-to-moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days OR symptoms worsen after initial clinical improvement.
“Antibiotics do a tremendous good, but there’s a flip side of that coin. We have to recognize the risks of inappropriate antibiotic use, and commit to using these medications appropriately,” Wergin said.
Be a Warrior Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs!
Think Twice Before Requesting Antibiotics
You’ve been there. It’s the day before an important meeting, and you feel a sore throat coming on. You get home that evening and it’s worse. Your head throbs like a bad 80s baseline. Your eyes are fire engine red. You’d give just about anything to breathe through your nose. You call your doctor and beg for a pill — ANY pill — to make you feel better.
In many cases, that pill is an antibiotic. But unless your illness is caused by bacteria, an antibiotic won’t help — and it may even hurt. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million people in the United States are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and more than 23,000 die as a result.
You as a patient can help slow the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by not requesting antibiotics for viral illnesses, such as cold and flu.
While it’s true antibiotics save countless lives, their overuse and misuse is rapidly becoming a public health crisis. Many drug-resistant strains of bacteria, or superbugs, can make you extremely sick. Think super gonorrhea, or the worst case of food poisoning you can imagine.
Some bacterial illnesses that were once easily cured by antibiotics have become harder to treat. From urinary tract infections to serious hospital-borne pathogens, many treatments have become less successful as bacteria learn to fight back.
“Family physicians are concerned about the threat that antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses to public health,” said Robert Wergin, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Doctors must educate their patients about appropriate antibiotic use, and patients need to understand that antibiotics are often not the best course of treatment.”
There are steps you can take to relieve cold and flu symptoms when antibiotics won’t work:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to relieve cough, sore throat and sinus pain caused by cold and bronchitis.
- Avoid smoking and other airborne pollutants.
- Suck on ice chips, or use throat spray or lozenges to sooth a sore throat. Note: Never give lozenges to children.
- Take ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen as directed to relieve pain or fever.
- Place a warm moist cloth over the ear that hurts.
- Take decongestants or saline nasal spray to relieve nasal symptoms.
- Place a warm compress over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure.
- Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower.
“Nobody likes to be sick, but sometimes the best course of action is to treat the symptoms and ride it out,” Wergin said. “Antibiotics do a tremendous good, but there’s a flip side of that coin. We must recognize the risks of inappropriate antibiotic use and use these medications appropriately, or we may find ourselves in a crisis where serious illnesses outsmart our means to treat them.”
A 300% increase in readability
As PR coordinator for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Kendea Smith has an essential job: Her organization is responsible for 70 percent of the country’s economy.
For this piece, she improved readability by 42.9 points, from 21.8 points to 64.7. To do so, she:
- Whittled down the word count by 63%, from 410 words to 152.
- Streamlined sentences by 53%, from 30 words to 14 on average.
- Cut word length by 21%, from 5.3 characters to 4.2.
Here are her before-and-after scores:
Your child could be the winner of $500, an all expense paid trip to a local nature observatory all while becoming a coastal awareness spokesperson.
All you’d have to do is sign your child up for the National Coastal Awareness’ iReport competition, which shines the spotlight on coastal issues.
The contest, which is a part of National Coastal Awareness Month, closes May 29, 2015.
The theme of the competition is “If not now, when?…If not us, who?”
The contest seeks to attract students from both the primary and secondary school levels, youth clubs/ groups in The Bahamas.
- The competition is open to individuals between ages 8-17.
- You may submit more than one entry.
- Entries work should be the original work of the entrant.
- The submitted work should draw the attention of a local issue, provoke conversation and lead the community toward a solution.
The second place winner wins $300 and an all expense paid trip to a local Eco-Adventure Camp. The third place wins $150 cash and an all expense paid trip to a local Eco-Adventure Camp.
For further information contact BREEF at 327-9000 and email@example.com.
Coastal Awareness iReport Competition
If The Bahamas’ sea height grows by more than six feet as experts expect by 2020, more than half of the country will be under water.
That’s why the National Coastal Awareness Committee is creating a way to get children involved through an iReport competition.
The contest is for students between ages 8-17 where they submit photos or videos by May 29, 2015 using the theme “If not now, when? If not us, who?”
Rules of the contest:
- You may send more than one photo or video.
- It should be the original work of the candidate.
- The work should bring notice to a problem, create chat and an answer.
First prize wins $500 and a trip to a local nature park.
The second place winner gets $300 and a paid trip to a local Eco-Adventure Camp.
Third place wins $150 and a trip to a local Eco-Adventure Camp.
For more information call BREEF at 327-9000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiply the readability of your message.
Want to become a readability warrior yourself? Use Readability Statistics to make your messages measurably easier to read and understand.