What is Your Company’s Worst Claims Writing Problem?

By Gary Blake | October 6, 2017

Today, the Claims Writing Coach is taking a brief reader survey to found out the most embarrassing or costly writing errors you see throughout your department or company.

Once I have your answers, I can then focus my column more directly on the types of issues that are most troublesome and most deserving of being addressed.

I will list 10 common claims writing issues, each followed by a brief description. I hope that you’ll write to me at garyblake725@gmail.com to let me know which are of most concern to you. Every reader who offers a substantive response will receive a FREE copy of either my two-color poster on Organizing Information or Eliminating Wordiness:

  1. Poor Organization. Letters that do not effectively lead the reader through a logical series of thoughts.
  2. Wordiness. Using many words to say what could be said in a few. Inability to cut out words that do not add meaning to a thought.
  3. Old-Fashioned Phrases. Many claims letters are littered with old fashioned expressions such as “enclosed please find,” “under separate cover” and “do not hesitate to contact me.”
  4. Inappropriate Commentary. Even when writing to the file, some adjusters may use ageist, racist, or sexist language as well as make conclusory statements; these can be trouble if there is litigation.
  5. Legalese and Jargon. Although your attorneys are there to protect you, they may be producing letters that are not at all “customer friendly.” Too many letters to policyholders drop jargon like “subrogate,” “mitigate” or “estoppels” or load up on unnecessary legalisms (e.g., “in lieu of”).
  6. Letting Your Bile into Your File. While you have a good deal of latitude in how you choose to comment on a file when you write strictly “to the file,” you need to be sure that you are not accidentally making an ageist, racist, or sexist comment. Also, try to use generic terms to replace dated phrases that are sexist, such as “mailman,” “stewardess,” “Career Girl,” or “waitress.”
  7. Poor Format. Is your format consistent: an inside address, salutation properly punctuated, a reference (RE) line that is easy to grasp quickly, an appropriate closing as well as proper margins and spacing?
  8. Vagueness. Do you see letters that shy away from detail, letters that don’t paint a picture in your mind? If you overdo hedgy “weasel words” in writing, an opposing attorney might ridicule one of your department’s letters in a court of law.
  9. Poor Punctuation. As you no doubt know, even college graduates can fumble with commas, apostrophes and hyphens. Many adjusters have trouble using semicolons properly. Others don’t know when a question mark belongs before or after quotation marks in a sentence. Poor punctuation silently steals the image of professionalism you try to uphold.
  10. Poor Grammar. Subtle mistakes of grammar – subject/verb disagreement, run-on sentences, noun/pronoun disagreement, misplaced modifiers, and other problems can play a part in lowering the respect and seriousness of your departmental letters.

I welcome your comments on how any of these – or other – writing issues have caused friction, wasted time, or resulted in financial loss to your department. Email me at Garyblake725@gmail.com. [Change names or other details!]

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About Gary Blake

Gary Blake is director of The Communication Workshop, offering claims writing webinars and seminars to claims professionals throughout the US, Bermuda, Canada, and the UK. Blake is the author of The Elements of Business Writing (Pearson Education), used at more than 100 insurance companies. He has written about claims writing for a number of industry publications. His e-mail is garyblake725@gmail.com. More from Gary Blake

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