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Testing

It is important to get feedback from people who are likely to use your document. We often write documents which are more suitable for ourselves than for our readers. Make sure that you test what you write. Always have someone else read and comment on what you write. If you are preparing documents that will be widely circulated, conduct a field test among people who represent your audience. This process will tell you:

  • if your audience wants to read your work,
  • if they can read it, or
  • if they can make use of it.
If your draft does not pass the test, the results will give you valuable information on how to revise your work for your audience.

Try field testing
Ask several of the people whom you expect to read the document to assess its value. Ask them if it is something they would enjoy reading, if they would read it and if it makes sense to them. Once you have incorporated their comments, test your document with a larger group. The time and effort spent field testing is worth the effort. Only your readers can tell you if your writing is useful, relevant and readable.

Computer Packages.
If you use a word processing program to write, try using the available grammar and style software packages to ensure you have followed grammar rules. These grammar check programs can help you spot writing errors such as:

  • incomplete sentences
  • passive voice
  • jargon
  • long sentences and paragraphs
  • negative sentences
Some also suggest changes to correct these problems. However, consider this a handy tool - don't use it as the final assessment of your writing. Ultimately the reader is the best judge.

Try this:

Choose a document or form that already exists in your area. Conduct a mini field test with several of the users of the document. Then, think about how you would revise the document based on the test results. If possible, incorporate your revisions.

Other resources online:

The Plain Language Center in British Columbia
Writing that works: Tried and tested
Q:We don't have time to test... What should we do?

A:Testing is one of the most ignored areas of plain language. You may not have time to test, however, you should make that decision knowing that the document may not communicate effectively and you may end up spending more money trying to "fix" the communication later. You will get feedback. The issue is whether you want that feedback when you can still do something about it or after it's too late.