‘What gets measured gets done.’ So true! Here’s the all too familiar scenario. You carefully and enthusiastically set new expectations for (insert almost anything) and then wait to see the change. You happily count some early successes, but all too quickly things revert to the way they were.
Disappointment! You realise what you already knew: most new initiatives fall by the wayside if we don’t check up on them — plain language projects included. Benchmarking at the start, and then regularly measuring the progress of your plain language initiative, makes a huge difference. Yes, really.
Measuring and reporting on progress:
- keeps everyone aware of your expectations — you care, and they should too
- gives you reason to celebrate, even for small successes
- tells you the best way to allocate your resources for maximum return
- sends the message that plain language is here to stay.
Here are three proven ways to measure progress.
1. Monthly: Focus on language indicators — invest in at least one copy of StyleWriter editing software and use it to compare language features of documents across different workgroups. People soon get to know the monthly report is coming, and change happens!
Look at the scores for the Bog Index (overall clarity), Average Sentence Length (key indicator of readability), and the Passive Index (indicator of tone and connection ). Or set your own criteria from the many on offer.
StyleWriter checks are fast and easy. Excel will help — the graphs and numbers in your compiled report will speak for themselves with minimal commentary. Share! A bit of friendly team competition never hurts.
2. Six-monthly: Audit against your full Standard — review a sample of whole documents, at least one from each business unit, against elements in your Plain Language Standard. How? Ask us for help (we’d love to, of course). Or make this part of your Champions’ job description, or appoint a single staff member or contractor to do the full audit.
Share the report, with positively framed commentary, with your whole organisation. Over time you should see a steady improvement in all areas of the Standard.
3. Yearly: investigate changes in attitudes and production processes — do a short organisation-wide survey to gauge attitudes to writing, how writing is produced, and the overall effectiveness of your plain language initiative. Understanding what people think will guide you in your planning for the following year. Share these results with everyone too.
If you did interviews during an initial Discovery phase, you’ll now get many insights into what’s changed and what still needs your focus.
Of course you can measure success in many ways. The important thing is to do it — regularly, visibly, and positively. Need help? We’d love to.