Two years ago I was on an extended rant—several months—railing against unnecessary complexity in written and visual communication. During that time I was introduced to Josh Bernoff’s book, Write Without Bullshit. It became a sort of bible in meetings and when I reviewed written work by my team.

Around the same time my wife and I received a letter from an alarm company we had stopped using nearly two years earlier announcing that it had amalgamated with another alarm company. I’d forgotten about the letter until today when I stumbled upon it while doing some hard drive maintenance.

The letter is horrific—a communicator’s nightmare. As soon as I finished reading the first sentence, I scanned it and opened it in my iPad so I could mark it up (see below).

Sent to residential alarm system customers, it relies on a hodgepodge of legal gobbledygook and corporate speak. It mixes personalization with depersonalization, breaks business correspondence practices, and fails to clearly answer an important question for actual customers… how does this amalgamation affect me as a customer and my ongoing monitoring service?

It turns out the letter was issued by the accounts payable department. That explains a lot. Why is the department responsible for paying bills issued by suppliers, writing a letter to customers who deal with sales, service and accounts receivable? Why is there a copyright notice in the footer of corporate correspondence? Why was I a recipient of this letter nearly two years after I had switched to another alarm provider?

How does your organization communicate with clients/stakeholders? Who is accountable for clarity and purpose? Are any processes screaming for an overhaul?

Click here to download a PDF copy of the marked-up letter.