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Useful policies are short

If you take the time to prepare a policy or procedure,then you may as well make it accessible to people, right?

Online access and policiesI just read a blog post discussing how the average internet user could spend 76 business days a year reading privacy policies that affect them. 76 days!

That is based on the average policy having 2,514 words. Which is a lot of words for a policy that basically needs to say ‘we will only give your information to Fred under these circumstances’.

And it is an average. Some places have very short privacy policies (for example, if you subscribe to my newsletter you will see a 34 word policy!) so that must mean other places have extremely long policies.

So next time you write or update a policy, keep it as short as possible by

  1. using simple words as much as possible so it is easy to understand
  2. avoiding legalese so it makes sense to everyone and doesn’t look intimidating
  3. think about your reader – what do they want to know and expect to see?
  4. use an active voice as it is generally shorter than a passive version of the same sentence
  5. use bullet points and sub-headings to organise the policy – this is easier to read, often means less repetition is necessary and sentences don’t need to be so complex.

Legally, you may be covered by providing a policy even if people don’t bother reading it (how often do you read the policies you agree to online?) but I wouldn’t be comfortable with including unexpected details that could hurt people later. That is, the legal issue is not always the moral one so I prefer policies people are more likely to read.

As a business owner, do you just want to protect yourself or do you want people to properly understand your policies?

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