This week’s rant: Facebook and the art of Plain English

Did you get that email, suspiciously sent during the Thanksgiving holiday, asking Facebookers to read the proposed privacy policy and data use policies and comment on them? I dutifully clicked on the link and took a gander at the documents. What have I learned? Not a thing about their proposed changes but an awful lot about language and Facebook’s inability to communicate well with their users.

Here is a lesson in bombarding your users with unfriendly English.

I opened the proposed Data Usage Policy and ran it through some diagnostics. Here are the results to provide some food for thought for you all about how Facebook communicates with us.

Readability statistics in MS Word

This one document is 9,111 words long! Who has the time to read it?!

picture of readability statistics for facebook data use policyJust before I checked out Facebook’s email, I just happened to have read Good Copy, Bad Copy’s blog post on tools for better business writing – a great article dissecting a previously awful piece of writing from JJB Sports. Good Copy, Bad Copy recommended three tools to help your business writing so I figured I’d run that Facebook policy and see what each tool came up with. Here are the results.

The Writer’s Diet

picture of writers diet analysis for facebook's data use policyA high proportion of abstract nouns!
(The Writer’s Diet)

Drivel Defence

picture of driveldefense analysis for facebook data use policyThe longest sentence has 77 WORDS! My old English teacher is currently cracking her knuckles ready for a long tussle with Facebook’s wordsmiths.
(Drive Defence tool)

And finally

The Gunning Fog Index

gunning for fog's analysis of facebook data use policyWell done Facebook, you need to be educated to university/college degree level to be able to understand your data use policy.
(The Gunning Fog Index)

Any clearer? No?

I enjoy taking documents such as this and turning them into Plain English but I really doubt Facebook will be calling me anytime soon. I also just don’t have the time or patience right now to even attempt a rewrite of that one policy, even for intellectual argument’s sake. All I want to know is what’s changing and when, that’s all.

So, come on Facebook, you’re currently getting a resounding F in Plain English – please try harder.

What do you think of Facebook’s proposed policy changes? Did you read them? Did you understand them? Can you explain them to the rest of us in sentences of 7 words or less? Comment below and make my day!

 

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