50. Document Clarity/Simplification

All important documents such as paycheck earnings statements, credit card statements, bank statements, loan documents, telephone bills, receipts, school transcript records, and all other similarly important kinds of documents must be made so that each and every bit of information stated within them is clear, easy to understand, self-explanatory, uncomplicated, and virtually painless to review and comprehend to the extent where virtually any possible reasonable question more than 99% of the literate population may have concerning the document is clearly answered within the document itself.

Receipts

For example, receipts obtained when sales transactions take place should be so clear and self-explanatory that anybody who looks at the receipt would know exactly what product or service was purchased. The receipt should have the full name of the product or service, without using abbreviations, if possible, and include any other relevant identifying description. No codes or numbers printed on receipts should constitute the sole essential element in identifying a product or service. Even barbers should give receipts that show exactly what service was performed, what size combs were used during the haircut, etc. All receipts should also contain the store name, address, and date and time of the transaction.

Paychecks

To make paycheck earnings statements easier to understand they should have separate and clear entries for each and every day covered in that pay period and should include in each daily entry relevant data for that day, such as how many hours were worked that day, whether sick or vacation time was used, how much money was earned that day, etc. Then it should also summarize all the relevant data for that pay period, such as total hours worked, etc. In addition, detailed information concerning paycheck deductions for various causes should be stated in a simple enough way so that there would be no questions about where, why or how much money is going to those causes.

Bills

Bills for products or serviced rendered should be simple such that each charge is given a clear name and other information so that even a person who is not a party to the transaction would know exactly what the charge was for. Footnoted explanations should be kept to a minimum. Formats should be simple enough to allow for quick checking and troubleshooting of any problems or false charges that may have been imposed. All bills and invoices should have both the amount due and the due date printed and placed in a visibly prominent fashion so that they can both be found at a glance.

Payment & Billing Cycles

Payment cycles and billing cycles such as for paychecks and telephones should not be arbitrary, such as from March 13 through April 12, but should be logical, such as from March 1st through March 31st.

Bank Statements

Bank statements should be written in a way that even a stranger could read the document and be able to tell exactly what occurred. Bank statements should detail absolutely every single transaction that has had any influence on the account. Every incoming and outgoing financial transaction should be detailed on each month’s statement so that there can be no questions about the origin, destination and amount of each movement of money into, out of, or in some way connected to the account.

Telephone Bills

Telephone companies should include one complete chronological list of every telephone call made during the billing period. Whether a call was long distance or not, or whether different service providers where used should not interfere with this chronological list of calls. Furthermore, each call record should have the complete sequence of numbers dialed (including any dial-around numbers) for that call regardless of whether their were 22 or more digits dialed, as is the case for some international calls. Other information that should be included, of course, include the time of the call, the length of the call, the rate at which the call was charged, and the total cost for that particular call. The company used for completing the call, including any dial-around company or long-distance company should also be noted with the other data within the same entry for this particular call.

Loan Documents

All loan documents should have the significant dates in the life of the loan stated on those documents. For example, the exact date that interest begins to accrue (if it’s a loan with a grace period), the date the loan was issued, dates at which interest rates have or will change, etc., should all be listed on each loan statement or other significant documents related to that particular loan. Even if documents cannot be specific to the dates of future significant events in the loan, they should be easy to understand at a glance.

Competition for Simpler Documents

To help make this a reality, companies should sponsor competitions to see who could come up with simpler, more logical, and easier to read documents, especially billing documents, issued by that company. Ideally, the perfect document would be so easy to read and virtually entirely self referencing that the customer (or for whoever the document is intended) would not need to ask anyone any question or do any research about anything written on the document in order to find out exactly what every part of it is saying. It would be self-explanatory, quickly understood and with abbreviations or codes and other jargon eliminated or kept to a minimum. These competitions could be open to anyone, but perhaps with priority being given to employees of the company sponsoring the competition. The winner(s) could then receive some kind of prize, like bonus money or time off.


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