I am setting forth ten commandments for writers in the public sector, based on my dissertation and on standards for clear writing.
Marketing talk reduces the credibility of texts, a serious drawback because credibility has always been a strength of official documents. According to the research, credibility also improves usability. You should not write a headline ”Tax rates getting lower” if they’re not. Similarly, don’t state that that services are improving when what’s really happening is that they’re being cut.
In my research, I found that positive marketing-style expressions move readily from one format, like a document, to others like online updates or social media. In Jakob Nielsen’s testing, however, this same marketing rhetoric lengthened the reading time – in other words, it degraded usability.
Objectivity and a non-advertising style are also recommended in the style guide for Finnish government services. This was the newest directive that I examined in my research. This principle of objectivity was clarified with examples: ”Avoid ad-like expressions (’Come and have fun in the library!’). Instead, describe the service and its use (’You can read the daily newspapers in the library.’).”
Recommendations like this show that the Finnish public sector is already escaping the clutches of marketing.