Halifax-Bank of Scotland (HBOS)
When the Halifax Building Society and the Bank of Scotland merged to become HBOS, the group decided the new bank should improve the way it communicated with customers. HBOS commissioned Editor Software, designers of StyleWriter, to rewrite all its customer service letters into plain English. When shown the original and the redrafts, every customer said they preferred the new, clear, plain-English style.
The customers’ endorsement of plain English convinced the HBOS management team that change was necessary. Now the standard letters were in plain English, the Customer Service Manager wanted the bank’s 6 million non-standard letters sent out each year to be in plain English.
“Working with Editor Software has been a pleasure. The company designed software and workshops to meet our specific needs. They offered a workable and effective solution that saved us money and delivered better results than our traditional training courses.” Mike Crowther – Customer Services Manager HBOS
To solve the problem, HBOS bought a 1,000-user licence to StyleWriter for customer service staff. They added a new company style guide (checking for the consistent use of dates, telephone numbers and product names) to the program. Staff went through our plain English training and used StyleWriter to proofread and edit individual letters to make sure the customer received a letter written to HBOS’s new, high standards of clarity and readability. Read the HBOS Testimonial (PDF 700k).
London Borough of Sutton
Every year, the London Borough of Sutton sent 1.3 million sheets of paper in its committee reports to the elected councillors. They were drowning in a sea of paper. Councillors couldn’t understand or absorb the information presented. Something had to change.
The council came up with some innovative solutions. They redesigned the committee report format. Out went the long introduction and background material (common in all organisations). In came a new opening page to every report. It has a specific title, 250-word summary of the problem and the recommendations for the councillors to take decision on. The report could be no longer than four pages. Staff writing the reports could not add an appendix. Any extra information available would be listed at the end of the report and available on request. Read the London Borough of Sutton Testimonial (PDF 300k).
“Every senior departmental manager, including the Chief Executive, attended the training. They all came away with a new-found enthusiasm for clear writing and the tools [StyleWriter] and knowledge to put it into practice.” Ruth Appleton - London Borough of Sutton
Denton, Wilde & Sapte (London law firm)
Lawyers, despite being smart people, don’t have a good reputation for writing clear and concise documents. The London law firm, Denton, Wilde & Sapte (now DRN Denton) wanted to change this perception with its clients.
The firm's training staff put many lawyers through a plain English writing course, but found few could keep to the plain English principles weeks later when writing to clients. To make the training effective, the firm invested in a firm-wide licence for the 700 lawyers and support staff. Read the Denton, Wilde & Sapte Testimonial (PDF 1.3mb).
“Changing from old-fashioned legalese to a clear and concise style is a challenge facing all law firms. Until now, it was impossible to change the poor drafting habits common to all organisations. Now with StyleWriter, management support and training, clear English in every document is possible.” From the firm’s testimonial
The firm’s clients soon noticed the difference. One wrote back to a client saying the briefing notes sent out by the firm he usually could not understand were now: ‘As clear as a mountain stream’.