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The Bank of England should follow Dr Seuss' example and publish simpler reports

Caitlin Morrison
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The Cat in the Hat is one of the most famous childrens' books - and the BoE could learn from it (Source: seussville.com)

The Bank of England (BoE) needs to simplify its speeches and reports, a researcher at the institution has said - and he pointed to beloved childrens' author Dr Seuss as the perfect example for the Bank to follow.

People writing in the financial industry put too many long words in long sentences, according to Jonathan Fullwood, from the Bank's advanced analytics division. In a study of speeches and reports from the Bank of England, the longest sentence researchers came across contained 77 words - "more than three times the maximum sentence length suggested by the Government Digital Service".

"We live in the information age," states Fullwood, writing for the BoE's Bank Underground blog.

"Both public and private institutions now make a wealth of information freely available via their websites. But does this really make these bodies accessible?"

Not really, Fullwood goes on to say - but he adds: "The good news is that, in my experience, improvements in readability could be made with relatively little effort."

In the blog post, Fullwood highlights the enduring success of The Cat in the Hat, by Theodor Geisel - better known as Dr Seuss - which has sold at least 10m copies since it was first published in 1957.

"The book’s text... at first appears to be straightforward," says Fullwood. "But perhaps this is a result of the great thought that went into it. Geisel claimed to have worked on the book for nine months. His aim was clear. To write an exciting book that would encourage six and seven year old first grade children to read.

"Challenged by a publisher’s education division to limit the vocabulary to no more than 225 words, Geisel eventually picked 223 words from a list of 348 first grade target words, plus 13 simple words that were not on the list. The flowing, rhyming prose and Geisel’s trademark illustrations were an immediate hit with his target audience."

And while Fullwood allows that those writing in financial institutions won't be targeting an audience of six and seven year olds, he adds: "Readability is important. Evidence suggests that many writers don’t give sufficient consideration to this fact. In particular, there appears to be plenty of scope for those in the financial sector to improve the accessibility of their work."

Adding some Seuss-esque rhymes could even take the edge off reading about negative interest rates.

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