US Top Government Contractor Websites Struggle with Complex Language

Evelyn Wolf
2 min read
Only 1 out of the 95 top Government Contractors achieved the minimum target readability score

Baltimore, Monday 13th March 2017. VisibleThread the industry leading content analysis software provider that scans documents and entire websites for readability concerns, quality and liability, today announced the findings from its inaugural review of the top government contractor websites – The VisibleThread Website Index, Top Government Contractors – 2016. In February 2017, as a part of the company’s ongoing research program into the use of clear language in Internet communications, VisibleThread measured the largest U.S. Federal Government Contractor websites for clarity.

The government contractors with the overall best scores were: CDW-G, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft and Engility. To view the entire ranked list of government contractors, including leaders and losers in each category, view the full report here.

The analysis measured up to 100 pages on each website, across these four dimensions:

  • Readability – How readable is the content?
  • Passive Language – Active Language communicates clearly. What proportion of sentences are passive?
  • Long Sentences – What proportion of all sentences are too long?
  • Word Complexity Density – Density rating is the proportion of complex words relative to total word count

Why is this report relevant?

There is a growing movement for all website content to be clear, concise and relevant. For example, the Plain Language Act of 2010 requires all U.S. Federal agencies to communicate clearly. Further the U.S. Federal Government expects contractors to answer RFPs using clear and concise language. Similarly, if website copy is obtuse or complex, it reflects poorly on the brand. It creates a subliminal impression that the contractor will be hard to deal with when working with government agencies. In addition, it improves engagement and compliance. When more people understand what a contractor offers, they are more likely to engage.

“Government contractors are forcing readers to needlessly expend high levels of mental energy to understand their message. Many government contractors are needlessly placing a high cognitive burden on the reader. Marketers need to promote a clear message. So, complex messaging, even for a technological oriented audience leads to churn and poor online engagement,” said Fergal McGovern, CEO, VisibleThread. “A Website reflects your brand values. Even with highly technical content, simple tweaks can make a difference. Brands and marketing teams want to reflect an approachable ethos. Government contractors must use technical language when describing products, processes and services. Our report shows that most are missing the mark.”

Download the full report here:


About VisibleThread

VisibleThread’s solutions help organizations test & audit their written content for risk and content quality, with dramatically less cost. Customers include; Northrop Grumman, Intel, Accenture and Fannie Mae. Our software instantly finds brand compliance, poor readability and language risk issues within documents and entire websites. Customers see >45% increase in efficiency over manual review, and produce better quality, more engaging content. Unlike consumer-grade analysis tools, VisibleThread processes hundreds of documents and web pages in minutes. We are used by Marketing, Sales and Risk/Contracts Teams in leading global organizations. Visit for more information.


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