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25 years

Another unclear document from a government office, a convoluted loan agreement, a complicated user guide, or a drug leaflet that only a doctor or pharmacist can understand? Many texts and official documents are formulated in an overly complicated way. To improve the quality of their communications, offices, banks or telephone operators can use Jasnopis - an application created by a team of researchers from SWPS University and the Institute of Computer Science at the Polish Academy of Sciences, which allows you to write more simply and clearly.

Problem

Incomprehensible texts and official documents

Almost all of us sometimes struggle to understand official documents, manuals for various devices, and package leaflets accompanying medicines and pharmaceuticals. As many as a third of the complaints to the Ombudsman are from people who could not understand an official letter or document which they received from a court or a public authority. This sometimes even leads to incurring financial losses or missing out on the opportunity to appeal to court. This is unacceptable, especially that important texts that function in the public space should be understandable to everyone. It is a condition for our security and possibility to participate in public life.

Do official texts and documents really have to be formulated in such difficult and incomprehensible language? Couldn’t they be written in a way that is clear and understandable to everyone, not just narrow groups of specialists?

Solution

Jasnopis, an application that helps you write in a clear and comprehensible way

Jasnopis is an application developed by a team of researchers from the SWPS University and the Institute of Computer Science at the Polish Academy of Sciences which allows you to write more simply and clearly. The project was directed by professor Włodzimierz Gruszczyński, a renowned linguist and long-time faculty member of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in Warsaw. Owing to special algorithms, the application measures the comprehensibility of a text, identifies overly complex fragments and suggests corrections depending on the target group. With Jasnopis, you can check the clarity of your text and simplify the contents of a contract, a set of rules and regulations, an official letter, a user manual or a memo which you wrote yourself.

The application's algorithm can be tailored to the needs of individual users and also to industry requirements, including banking, finance, government offices, pharmaceutical companies or telephone operators. The tool is designed to address the needs of specific users while maintaining data security and confidentiality. Jasnopis can also act as a plug-in that works with a word processor.

Jasnopis measures the difficulty of the given text on a scale of "1" to "7". "1" stands for the easiest texts which are comprehensible to every Polish speaker, while "7" signifies exceptionally complicated texts intended for specialists and requiring additional preparation to be understood. The application also suggests corrections: breaking long sentences down into shorter parts or replacing difficult words with simpler equivalents.

 

Why?

We are responsible for enabling every citizen to participate in public life

Linguists, psychologists, computer scientists and statisticians from the SWPS University and the Institute of Computer Science took on a challenge that concerns almost all of us. They tried to figure out what it means that someone understood a piece of writing and how do you go about checking how well they actually understood it. The research involved over 3,000 subjects and the results provided the foundations for creating and scaling the Jasnopis app. The researchers isolated the features of text that most clearly influenced the results. Then, after complicated statistical calculations, each of those features was assigned an appropriate weight (i.e. the degree to which it affected comprehensibility), until finally a long and complicated formula was drawn up based on which Jasnopis works out the comprehensibility index of a text.

Of course, certain elements of legal language cannot be changed or simplified. Perhaps, however, with the help of Jasnopis it will be possible to improve direct communication between government offices, law firms and pharmaceutical companies and their clients. When the security, property and rights of citizens are at stake, information provided to people should always be formulated in a simple and understandable way - and this is what researchers from SWPS University had in mind when working on the project.

Włodzimierz Gruszczyński - Uniwersytet SWPS

professor Włodzimierz Gruszczyński

Linguist and member of the academic staff of SWPS University for many years. A specialist in Polish linguistics. Interested in dictionaries, especially old ones, and linguistic norms, he is involved in research into contemporary and old Polish language.

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Legal design – legal writing understandable for everyone

The law affects us all, but sometimes we don't know how to take advantage of it. It’s difficult to understand the obscure wording of resolutions, laws and regulations - which in turn leads to social exclusion. How can this problem be solved?

www.swps.pl/25-lat