How to Write for a Low Literacy Audience

Michael Villaire, MSLM

Michael Villaire, MSLM

Michael Villaire set the tone for the conference with a hands-on, fundamental session of how to write for a low literacy audience to accomplish the goal of improving health literacy and understanding. He began his session by explaining the key point when writing for a low literacy audience: “For a message to be readable, understandable, and comprehensible you must remove the barriers for poor readers. Removing the barriers increases the likelihood that the reader will get the message.”

There are many avenues by which poor readers can be challenged. These challenges are compounded by typical document problems, such as high reading levels, too many words, jargon, formal style, passive writing, long sentences, and either no visuals or inappropriate graphics. 

Villaire then provided attendees with tools to help overcome these challenges.
Attendees broke into groups to rewrite sample documents from a 9th grade reading level to a 3rd- to 5th-grade level. Groups presented their rewritten documents to the class and were given feedback on the rewrites.