Print clearly, or suffer the consequences


Earlier this week, I went to get the long-awaited vaccination for the swine flu. I’m already a registered patient at the doctor’s office that I used, so I figured the paperwork would be minimal. Sure enough, I just had to fill out one form with my name, date, etc. But when I brought it to the counter, they couldn’t read what I wrote, and asked me to spell the name again.

For me, this experience was quite embarrassing. Suddenly I was “one of those people” who are too sloppy to write things clearly. What happened here? I assumed that since all my info was in the customer database, there would be no need for them to read and re-type my name. In other words, there was no logical reason why I needed to be extra careful with how I wrote out my name and birthdate.

As it turns out, the office takes the form and uses it to look up your info in the patient database. If there’s anything illegible on there, they can’t locate you. That last part gave me an insight: if you want people to print clearly, or double-check something, or whatever, just tell them why you need them to do so. For example, a form at the doctor’s office might say: “Please print clearly — if we can’t read your name, we won’t be able to locate your records in our system, and you’ll have to wait longer before seeing the doctor.” By giving a reason for the desired behavior — one that people can understand and relate to — you’ll be a lot more likely to get the result that you’re looking for.