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Table 2 Guidelines used for revising patient education materials

From: Readability of patient education materials in ophthalmology: a single-institution study and systematic review

General Content
 • Focus on 2-3 key concepts.
 • Limit content to what patients really need to know.
 • Use only words that are well known to individuals without medical training.
 • Make certain content is appropriate for age and culture of the target audience.
 • Identify action steps. State in beginning and repeat in the end of the document.
Text Construction
 • Keep within a range of about a 6th to 8th grade reading level.
 • Use one- to two-syllable words.
 • Use short paragraphs.
 • Use active voice.
 • Use a clear topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph. Follow the topic sentence with details and examples.
 • Examples and stories may help engage readers.
 • Use words like “you” instead of “the patient.”
 • Structure the material logically, but include your most important points at the beginning of the document.
 • You need to grab the reader’s attention at the beginning. People often do not read all the text and may miss your key point if you save the best for last.
 • Some users prefer step-by-step instructions. Others may find concepts arranged from the general to the specific easier to understand.
 • Use bulleted lists instead of blocks of text to make information more readable.
 • Include specific actions the reader may or should take. Your document’s purpose should not be solely to inform but also to get the reader to take an action.
 • Avoid abstract words in instructions for actions.
 • Be consistent with terms.
 • Emphasize the benefits of the desired behavior.
 • Do not make assumptions about people who read at a low level. Don’t talk down to the reader. Maintain an adult perspective.
Visual Presentation
 • Use colors that are appealing to your target audience.
 • Use illustrations and photos with concise captions. Keep captions close to photos and illustrations.
 • Avoid graphs and charts unless they actually help understanding. If you do use them, make sure they are simple and clear.
 • Balance the use of text, graphics, and white space. Try for 40-50 % white space.
 • Avoid using all capital letters. Upper and lower case are easier to read. To show emphasis, use bold, larger type size or different fonts.
 • Avoid italics of more than a few words at a time.
 • Make print large enough for your target audience. For most readers text the equivalent of Times New Roman 12 point is adequate. For seniors, consider using 14 point.
 • Use easy-to-read fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma and Helvetica.
 • Use bolded headings and subheadings to separate and highlight document sections.
 • When possible, use graphics or spell out fractions and percentages.
 • Only justify the left margin. This means the left margin should be straight and the right margin should be “ragged.”
 • Do not print text on top of shaded backgrounds, photos, or patterns.