Research Discussion Paper – RDP 2021-05 Central Bank Communication: One Size Does Not Fit All


High-quality central bank communication can improve the effectiveness of monetary policy and is an essential element in providing greater central bank transparency. There is, however, no agreement on what high-quality communication looks like. To shed light on this, we investigate 3 important aspects of central bank communication. We focus on how different audiences perceive the readability and degree of reasoning within various economic publications; providing the reasons for decisions is a critical element of transparency. We find that there is little correlation between perceived readability and reasoning in the economic communications we analyse, which highlights that commonly used measures of readability can miss important aspects of communication. We also find that perceptions of communication quality can vary significantly between audiences; one size does not fit all. To dig deeper we use machine learning techniques and develop a model that predicts the way different audiences rate the readability of and reasoning within texts. The model highlights that simpler writing is not necessarily more readable nor more revealing of the author’s reasoning. The results also show how readability and reasoning vary within and across documents; good communication requires a variety of styles within a document, each serving a different purpose, and different audiences need different styles. Greater central bank transparency and more effective communication require an emphasis not just on greater readability of a single document, but also on setting out the reasoning behind conclusions in a variety of documents that each meet the needs of different audiences.