Issue 81 November, 2019
Work hard to make ‘terms of service’ readable
Dear <<First Name>>:
Oh, my poor eyes and brain.
When I logged into my analytics last week, Google had new “Google Measurement Controller-Controller Data Protection Terms” to which they invited me to agree. Like you, probably, I usually just click on “agree.” This time, I copied, saved and read the terms.
Google doesn’t claim it changed its terms of service to be more clear. Good thing, because that would be a lie.
Close to 2,300 words set out the new terms, including the lengthy preamble below. Google did not define “Controller” but it appears to be a GDPR thing (General Data Protection Regulation, an EU data protection and privacy law). Looks like “Controller Data” basically means any of your personal data in their control.
Watch out, here’s the before, with an alarming amount of pinky-red meaning “very hard to read” (yellow is slightly less hard), according to the Hemingway app:
Lawyers have obviously covered all the bases with this complicated explanation, but your job is to help your readers understand. So, negotiate. Let the lawyers have a link to the full and binding legal definition in all its glory, but focus on your readers.
To start the rewrite, I addressed the reader ("you"), who is presumably said Customer. I shortened and broke up the sentences and got to the point. I took out unnecessarily legal wording (like "as amended from time to time"). I used italics to highlight some differences and moved the “a, b, c” points to bullets. Here’s my rewrite:
Here are some before and after readability results using the Hemingway app and StoryToolz:
| Flesch reading ease (30-50 = difficult; 60-70 =
|Hemingway app readability ranking||Grade 16||Grade 8|
|# of very hard-to-read sentences||8||0|
| Average words per sentence (22-25 words =
60-69% understanding; 15-18 = 80-89%)
| Longest sentence (43+ words = 0-9%
|57 (!!) words||21 words|
Better, although there is always room for improvement. (I'm not fond of "Bind the customer," for instance.)
Have you seen a “before” piece of writing that needs an “after”? Please hit reply and share; I’m always looking for good (bad) examples.
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