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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Is Your Company Encouraging or Impeding Financial Literacy?

The Center for Plain Language launches ClearMark Awards to honor great financial communications.

The insurance industry has experienced more than its fair share of criticism for business practices. While many of the slams are overstated or even false, one area where there is at least some guilt has been in the wording of policies, statements, and other consumer-related documents and communications. Insurers certainly aren't alone in their tendencies to present critical information in a hard-to-digest manner. In fact, part of the mission of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to force financial services companies, whether banks, card issuers, or insurance companies, to simplify the language in agreements, product descriptions, disclaimers, contracts and other consumer communications.

As always, there undoubtedly some companies that already have embarked on this path and whose communications set a standard for clarity and simplicity. And assuredly there are others that, consciously or unconsciously, exemplify the worst in fogginess, confusion and incoherence. Wherever your organization's communications fall on this spectrum, there is now a program designed to recognize both excellence and failure. The Center for Plain Language, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that promotes the use of clear language, has opened nominations for its ClearMark Awards.

There are two categories: For the use of great financial communications The Center honor the recipient with a ClearMark Award; and for the worst or most confusing documents, the organization notes the business, government agency or nonprofit with the WonderMark Awards.

According to the Center for Plain Language, anyone may nominate an entry for either award. The deadline for submissions is February 4, 2011, 5:00 p.m. EST. The entry fee for the ClearMark Awards is $100 ($75 for Center members and government agencies). All WonderMark submissions are FREE. The Center will announce award recipients at the ClearMark Awards ceremony on April 28, 2010, in Washington, D.C. To obtain an application form for the ClearMark Awards, visit

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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