Word Choice in Claims Letters, Part 2

By Gary Blake | November 3, 2017

Here are a few additional word choice issues I see as I give my webinars and seminars on claims writing across the U.S. Watch for these as you phrase your letters:

  • “Our offer is firm and non-negotiable.” Isn’t this redundant?
  • “Failed appointment.” This is a negative statement. Instead, how about replacing it with “missed appointment”?
  • “Monsoon storm.” “Monsoon” is a storm.
  • “After a thorough review of your auto policy…” As opposed to what? A superficial review?
  • I can never think of the word “addressed” without thinking of a well-known episode of the 60’s sitcom, The Honeymooners, in which Ralph Kramden, teaching golf to his pal Ed Norton says, “Now, address the ball.” Norton steps up to the tee and says, “Hello, ball!”

That is what I thought of when I read a recent opening line of a claims letter: “Per our two phone conversations, your concerns on your father’s outstanding content claim have been addressed.”

Is there a more specific word than “addressed”? “Resolved” seems more definite.

  • “Eroded.” In a letter to a risk management consultant, a claims adjuster wrote, “The settlement reached for the claim was $30,000; however, $5,000 was deducted to cover Jones Farms’ deductible, which has not been eroded.” Nothing worse for a farm than “erosion”, I always say.
  • “If you have further questions regarding the conduct of the claim….” Yes, I felt it was too noisy! Use “handling” instead.
  • “It was discovered that the damage is old from a pre-existing problem.” [Duh!]
  • “Opine” is a word, but it always makes me laugh.

A real claims sentence: “The defendants are vicariously liable for any and all damages caused by the tortuous conduct of their employees.” [I’ll send a copy of my book, The Elements of Business Writing to the person who e-mails me with the best rewrite of this sentence.]

I’ll make the same offer for the rewrite of the following actual claims sentence: “According to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, the best home security system should be customized to suit your schedule and that of your children, pets, and valuables.” [Hmmm. Let me check with my watch, school and wallet and I’ll get back to you.]

If you have pet peeves about any expressions you see misused in your department, please e-mail me at garyblake725.com and I will send you my 8 1/2″ X 11″ flyers on Wordiness, Hedging and Redundancy.

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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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