Improving the readability of our audit content

Lindsay GardnerCannabis Law, ComplianceLeave a Comment


We recently executed “Operation Easy Read” with the goal of improving the readability of our audit content. “Not written in layperson terms” and “too much legal jargon” were consistent pieces of feedback.

We took it upon ourselves to review every question and action item. We forced ourselves to find shorter ways of saying things, remove the legalese, and use simpler language. Here’s an inside look at how Simplifya takes complex regulations and breaks them down into straightforward, “yes or no” questions.

An example from Colorado

Let’s say one of our dispensary clients operating in Colorado runs a self-audit to determine whether their marketing and advertising materials are compliant with state law. Colorado cannabis law is very specific when it comes to what a cannabis business can and cannot advertise. Take this regulation, for example:

A Retail Marijuana Establishment may advertise that its products have been tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility, but shall not engage in Advertising or utilize signage that asserts its products are safe because they are tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility. Rule R 1110

Huh?! That regulation is super long and confusing. If you’re feeling lost and confused, you’re not alone. Take a look at how we originally broke this regulation down into a question:

Does the Retail Marijuana Establishment advertise that its products have been tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility, but not that its products are safe because they were tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility?

Now we’re getting somewhere! That’s a lot easier to understand, but it could still use some improvement as far as readability goes.

Where we started

To quantify our improvements, we used a popular tool called the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. It is a formula that measures the readability of a piece of text and results in a score that corresponds to a US grade level. For example, text written at a 7th grade reading level would score a 7.

Prior to Operation Easy Read, almost all of our Colorado audit content scored near a graduate school reading level. Not bad, considering most of the Colorado’s regulations scored near the advanced PhD level!

Where we ended

By the end of Operation Easy Read, almost all of our content scored at a high school grade level or lower! Users will notice a marked difference in how quickly they are able to read a question and fully understand what it’s asking of them. Let’s revisit our example and see how readability improved:

Do you advertise that your products are safe because they have been tested by a Marijuana Testing Facility?

Simple and straightforward, right? The question flows better because we removed the unnecessary clauses and proper nouns. The original regulation scores 24.1 while our improved question scores 11.1. In other words, the question is nearly 50 percent easier to read than the regulation!

Improving Readability

The impact may seem small when looking at a single example, but it adds up quickly across a full audit. Questions aren’t nearly as complicated. Answers are easier to find. Action items are clearer. Also, audits are more accurate because there’s less chance to misinterpret a question. Operation Easy Read started with Colorado content and is rolling out to other cities and states as we add them. It’s all part of our effort to simplify cannabis regulations for our clients!

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