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Andrew Steeds

A number of things don’t work as well as they should here. The dotted background doesn’t make the writing clearer and is actually a potential distraction and irritation for certain readers (try it with anyone who’s dyslexic, for example). I guess the writers thought it made the leaflet feel a bit groovy, but clarity would have been a better idea.

The middle panel is fine, though it would be better still if there had been a bit more space after that first line, particularly since the main sentence is a bit of a mouthful.

But that’s nothing compared with the text in the left-hand panel. Here, the decision to reverse the text out of the blue background (that’s the technical term for white printed on a colour background) doesn’t make it easy to read – a bit of a mistake given the importance of the text. The heading, too, is probably the wrong one: it should really be ‘What happens if you commit an offence?’ And after that, although the individual sentences are OK, it’s quite complicated working out exactly what the sanctions might be. If, instead, the variables had been flagged up earlier, as in the following, it might have allowed a shorter text:

Three factors affect what will happen to you:
  • your age
  • the seriousness of the offence
  • whether this is your first offence
If the offence is less serious and is not your first offence, you are less likely to end up in court. But you may be arrested and taken to the police station, even if you are under 18. Your drugs will be confiscated and you will be given a reprimand or a warning.
You are much more likely to end up in court if the offence is serious and is not your first offence, regardless of how old you are. [and so on … ]

This is a classic case of a text that lends itself to a range of equally valid structural treatments: the key thing is to consider the relative merits of each before deciding on the one that is clearest, most direct and most concise. The version on the leaflet, while by no means the worst offender of its type, would have been much more successful if shorter and more tightly constructed.