Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will ensure the ambulance never reaches me

In the sick room at my office, I’ve only just noticed these amazing instructions for how to call an ambulance. I can’t even count how many words there are in there.

I offer this to the world as a perfect example of how not to convey information.

  • Write in dry, corporate passive voice.
  • Bury your key information in the middle of 7 line paragraphs. Definitely don’t break it into bullet points, or pull out the 1 or 2 most urgently needed details and make them prominent.
  • Break your copy up with headings that don’t contain the key information.
  • Then repeat the information that it’s in the heading immediately.
  • Pad your copy. Why say “if” when you can say “if for any reason”?
  • Use plenty of departmental jargon and Nerdview — you know how facilities management works and what all their acronyms mean, so assume everybody else sees the world from the same perspective.
  • Use examples that don’t really help illustrate or clarify anything (i.e. the sort of things you put in parenthesis after “i.e.” mainly just to demonstrate you do know what you’re talking about honest).
  • Bold random words, but make sure they’re not any of the important ones.

I’m tempted to make this a training exercise: rewrite this poster conveying all of the information that’s in it in under 50 words.

This isn’t to mock the poor person who produced this, I should say. I imagine there’s a whole system that made this happen.

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