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The Comprehensibility of Government Forms and Pamphlets with Special Reference to Means Tested Benefits

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There is an enormous number of variously shaped and sized forms at present in use in the civil service. Expressions of bewilderment on attempting to fill out the more obtuse of these are commonplace. While in some cases these difficulties could be viewed as trivial it is argued that badly designed and worded forms, particularly those destined for the general public, result in the production of inaccurate and incomplete information which in turn can greatly increase administrative costs. It is also conceivable, especially in the case of applications for means tested benefits, that incomprehensible forms can have a deleterious effect on the incidence of successful claims. This paper presents a critical review of the experimental literature pertaining to the comprehensibility question both from independent researchers and those attached to local and central government departments and a plea, cognisant of some of the difficulties, for the more rapid implementation of these recommendations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1979

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