COVID-19 Emails Should Be Short And Simple, Behaviorist Says

Inboxes are being jammed with emails about the coronavirus. But many are incomprehensible, according to behavioral scientist Todd Rogers.

Among other things, the writers are forgetting that people have limited attention spans. And they haven’t got the time to read long, convoluted messages from schools or airlines, Rogers writes in an opinion column on CNN. 

Rogers and a colleague found that out during a test involving a rewrite of a California state truancy notification.

The recommended language was written for college-level readers and totaled 342 words. 

The Rogers team reduced that number by half and simplified their message for the fifth-grade reading level. 

Their best version was 40% more effective than the recommended language, he claims.

Rogers suggests that you do the following when passing on coronavirus-related information: 

  • Write in an accessible way, using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test in Microsoft Word and Google Docs to test your reading-level.
  • Use as few words as you can.
  • Write in a large font.
  • Eliminate “gratuitous borders and images.”
  • Use a clear structure, breaking up the text with headlines and bullet points. 



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