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News & views

UK literacy rises (a bit)

[8 Dec 2011] A survey for the Government of 7,000 people aged 16–65 has found that 5.1 million UK adults (one in seven of the population) have the literacy ability of an average 10-year-old. This is a slight improvement on the figure from a similar survey in 2003. (Source: Yorkshire Post, 2 Dec 2011)

It's clear from reading company letters that people with low literacy can still get jobs involving writing. Here’s one recent email, sent by a bank’s finance department to a supplier:

‘We have process the below mentioned document and the payment will reach the supplier account with in four working days.
Invoice No: 200908
Invoice Amount: 148
Processed Date: 03/12/2011
Note: The payment might get delayed, if the goods is not receipted by the relevant business units.’

Anyone who can figure out the final sentence must have plenty of time on their hands.

Based on data on the Adult Literacy Trust website, we reckon the average UK adult reads at a level equivalent to that of an average 13-year-old child. We do our best to edit texts to that level (or below) if they’re intended for a mass audience.

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