Table of Contents

Increasing Clarity of Information

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.


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.


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 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.


51. Inflation-Adjusted Figures

Whenever financial figures from years ago are stated, they should always be adjusted for inflation if a significant time (and inflation) difference exists between that figure and its equivalent worth in the present. This should especially be true when comparing the cost of items, programs, etc., over a span of years. Comparison of financial figures separated by years should, by default, be discussed in terms of inflation adjusted constant dollars. When using current dollars, it should be explicitly noted every time. Fixed financial figures such as fines, awards, etc., should be adjusted for inflation, as well. For example, if in January of 1998 the fine for littering was $1,000 and inflation ran at 2% that year, then the fine for 1999 should be $1,020. The way the fine should be described in the law books and on signs (in fine print) posted on the highways should indicate that the $1,000 is based on 1998 constant dollars. Or if this way is too impractical or complicated, then these figures should be adjusted for inflation every few years, maybe every five years. The signs, unfortunately, would need to be changed more often than they are now to keep them up to date.


52. More Visual Aids in News Stories

All written works, but especially news stories intended to effectively transmit information to a large audience, such as the public, should make far more use of visual aids by including, as much as possible, graphs, charts, diagrams, pictures, tables, timelines, prices of a product or commodity through time, etc., embedded within the written work. Even general education curriculums could be made more effective through the greater use of visual data.

News stories could impart a much greater benefit to its readers by increasing usage of visual aids with the major exception of pictures since pictures can be more subjective and more easily manipulated and interpreted as biased whereas charts and figures consisting of more objective, or at least more concrete, data can more easily be subjected to scrutiny.

Visual aids should mainly serve to put the story (and aspects of it) into context (historical and otherwise), they should compare the story (and aspects of it) with similar events (wholly or in part) that may have occurred in the past or in other parts of the world, and to place in perspective the significance of the current event.


53. Principles of Timeline, Graph, Chart, Table, Etc., Creation

Timelines, graphs, tables, etc., should always (unless there is a really good reason) be written from either, left to right, top to bottom, and from the past to the present. It is too difficult to study or refer to information presented in any other way. In other words, data from 2005 should always be placed after (to the right of) data from 2004.

Temperature scales should also be oriented vertically, with temperatures rising as you go up, unless there is a very good reason to present the data in another way.

Graphs representing a range of electromagnetic wavelengths should always begin with the shortest wavelengths on the left and the longest wavelengths on the right for graphs oriented horizontally. For electromagnetic wavelength graphs oriented in a vertical orientation, a standard conventional format should be adopted so that all such graphs will either place the shorter wavelengths either at the top or bottom while the longer wavelengths will be placed vice versa. A standardization of electromagnetic radiation graphs would make them much easier to learn and remember.


54. Titles Of Articles In Publications Should Be The Same

In all kinds of publications, regardless of the medium used, the title of all the articles or stories being advertised within that publication or listed on the cover, table of contents, or elsewhere, should be the same.


55. Newspaper Series Identification

Newspapers and other publications should clearly identify their multi-day stories by labeling them in a way that clearly conveys both how many stories there are in the series and each story’s number in the series. For example, instead of “one in a series,” or “first in a series,” it should be something like “first of a three part series,” etc. Exceptions could be made for articles that are part of an occasional series. However, these should also be labeled something like “one in an occasional series”.

Newspapers should also have summaries (or 1-3 sentence briefs) of multi-day articles so that a reader would have an idea of what to expect in each day’s article. All the summaries of all the articles, past, present, and future, in that series should be run with each day’s article.


56. Sources/In-Text Citations

Those sections of books or other publications that contain the full information about the sources of information used or cited in the book or publication should be called by the title of ‘Sources’. It should not be called ‘References’, ‘Works Cited’, ‘Notes’, or anything else.

Each entry should begin with a regular number (1, 2, 3, etc.) followed by a period and two spaces so that each entry in this list of sources can be clearly referred to using this number. The list of sources should be organized in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. The general structure of an entry should be such that the following questions are answered in the following order:

  1. Who – name of the author, last name first
  2. What – medium (if no author is listed, then the ‘medium’ would be listed after ‘title of work’), title of work, including edition number, page numbers, and other such identifying information
  3. When – publishing date of work
  4. Where – publishing information (I really don’t see the reason this publishing information is necessary, so it could probably be omitted from this list here.)

(I would have liked to organize these citations in the What, Who, When, (Where?) order, but that may make it too hard for readers or researchers to find sources quickly. It is much easier, more practical and more useful to organize references based on authorship than on works authored, both because authors may have a certain reputation among their readers and because one author can publish several different works, all of which could be listed together, and found easier, in the ‘Sources’ section under the author’s name.)

All sources/citations should also state the medium of the source, such as whether it is a book, magazine, interview, movie, etc. Each of these categories should be ended with a period while sections within categories should be separated with commas. Colons or semicolons should never be used. Abbreviations should not be used anywhere within a citation. Relevant information should generally be organized from the general to the specific: names from last to first, dates from year to month to day, parts of larger works from name of multi-volume sets, to volume, chapter, page number.

The first line of each entry (including the entry number) should be up against the left margin. Every succeeding line should be indented 5 spaces to the right. The word ‘page’ or ‘pages’ should be used before the referenced page numbers are written.

Following are some examples of the way different sources should be cited. Most of these examples are taken from, or derived from, the writing manual, “A Writer’s Reference.” In some cases, I made up the information.


  1. Basic format for a book.
    Tannen, Deborah. Book, The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue. 1998.
  2. Author with an editor.
    Wells, Ida B. Book, The Memphis Diary. Decosta-Willis, Miriam, editor. 1995.
  3. Corporate author.
    Bank of Boston. Book, Bank by Remote Control. 1997.
  4. Encyclopedia or Dictionary.
    “Sonata”. Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition. 1997.
  5. Work in an anthology.
    Malouf, David. “The Kyogle Line”. Book, The Oxford Book of Travel Stories, pages 390-396. Craig Patricia, editor. 1996.
  6. Book in a series.
    Malena, Anne. Book, Francophone Cultures and Literatures (series), “The Dynamics of Identity in Francophone Caribbean Narrative”, series number 24. 1998.
  7. Republished book.
    McClintock Walter. Book, Old Indian Trials. (Originally published, 1926). William, Least Heat Moon, forward. Republished, 1992.
  8. Article in a monthly magazine.
    Kaplan D. Robert. Magazine, “History Moving North”, Atlantic Monthly, pages 21, 26-28. 1997 February.
  9. Article in a daily newspaper.
    Knox, A. Richard. Newspaper, “Please Don’t Dial and Drive, Study Suggests”, Boston Globe, A1, A5-A6. 1997 February 13.
  10. Editorial in a newspaper.
    Editorial. Newspaper, “Health Risk on Tap”, Los Angeles Times, B6. 1998 February 11.
  11. Personal Interview<br />
    Lehrer, Jim. Interview, Clinton Bill. 1998 April 21.
  12. Radio or TV Interview.
    Rose, Charlie. Interview, “Gates, Louis Henry”, Charlie Rose, PBS, WNET. 1997 February 13.
  13. Unknown Author.

    Oxford Essential World Atlas. 1996.
  14. Translation.
    Mahfouz, Naguib. Book, Arabian Nights and Days. Johnson-Davies, Denys, translator. 1995.

Each of multiple references to the same author should constitute a new entry in the ‘Sources’ section, unless the exact same material, including page number, paragraph, and idea is referenced again.

Each of these Sources should also be listed, in full, at the bottom of the page in which the citation appears.

In text references to materials listed in the ‘Sources’ section should be denoted by a superscript lower case letter “s” immediately followed by a number corresponding to the number in which that particular source is listed in the ‘Sources’ section. An example would be s24.

Sources and bibliographies should be allowed (not required) to be merged into the same list.

Notes that the author may wish to add for any reason would be formatted in a way similar to ‘Sources’ and be called ‘Notes’. In-text references to notes would be denoted by a superscript lower case letter “n” immediately followed by a number corresponding to the number in which that particular note is listed in the book, such as n7. However, there would not be a separate section in the book dedicated to listing the full expanded notes of the author. Instead, all notes should be written on the bottom of the page in which the in-text citation is made to make it easy for the reader to quickly find and read the notes. If that is not deemed practical by the author, then the notes should be placed at least at the end of the chapter so people don’t have to go all the way to the end of the book to find them. These notes should be numbered beginning with the number 1 (i.e., n1) and should continue uninterrupted throughout the book. They should not begin again with the number one for the first note of each new chapter.