Plain Language Resources

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Do your brochures go straight in the trash? Make sure to develop and offer educational materials that people can understand and use to get healthy. These tools and guides will tell you how.

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How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials
MedlinePlus, NLM, NIH. Online list of guidelines for writing easy-to-read health information.
Reviewer’s Guide to Evaluating Health Information Materials
From Sandra Smith, MPH CHES.
Four-page guide and checklist to evaluate health information documents.
Plain Language Checklist
From U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. Effective Communication Tools for Healthcare Professionals: Addressing Health Literacy, Cultural Competency, and Limited English Proficiency.
Three-page guide and checklist to evaluate health information documents.

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Simply Put: A guide for creating easy-to-understand materials. (2010)
From the CDC. 44 pages. Addresses text, language, visuals, layout & design and culture. Includes helpful checklist. (Simply_Put.pdf)
Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective (2012)
From CMS. Eleven parts, 500+ pages. Addresses using a reader-centered approach, design, readability, translation, web content and getting feedback.
Pfizer Principles for Clear Health Communication (2nd Edition): A Handbook for Creating Patient Education Materials That Enhance Understanding and Promote Health Outcomes.
From Pfizer Clear Health Communication. Doak, L and Doak, C, Editors. 86 pages. Includes good examples and visuals.
The Health Literacy Style Manual
From The Maximus Center for Health Literacy and Covering Kids & Families (2006). 105 pages. Covers project planning, formatting and style, forms/applications, field testing and translation.
Designing Print Material: A Communications Guide for Breast Cancer Screening (2007)
From the National Cancer Institute. 67 pages. Well-designed guide, not just for breast cancer materials. Includes everything from assessing your audience to evaluating and revising the product.

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NIH Plain Language Online Training
From NIH. Free online training in plain language writing. Uses examples and activities.

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Kids’ Medical Dictionary
Glossary of Medical Terms
Words to Watch Fact Sheet
Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications