Develop Your Content and Visuals

Designing Information Material 4(1+3)

Lesson 4: Techniques of Good Writing

Develop Your Content and Visuals

Things to consider as you write the materials and tips to make sure your materials are easy to read and visually appealing.

  • Write a list of the key points you want to cover. Review what you know about your audience segments. Look at the results from your pretesting to identify the words and approaches that resonate with your audiences. Identify what information will be new to your audience and what points will be reinforcing already known information. Then write down the key points that convey your messages.
  • Develop an outline of what you want to say. Your outline should progress through your key points in a logical and clear manner. Make sure it addresses your communications objectives. Remove anything that is not essential to your objectives.
  • Make sure your facts are accurate and come from reliable sources. Government and academic publications are excellent sources of current and accurate information. Avoid using abbreviations, acronyms, jargon, or technical terms unless you must, and then you should define them. Make Your Written Materials Easy to Read and Understand.

The following suggestions will help your words communicate effectively.

  1. Write simply and clearly
    • Reading level should be appropriate for your intended audience
    • Use the active voice.
    • Vary your sentence length, but keep most sentences short (8-10 words).
    • Limit the number of points you cover.
    • Change abstract words to concrete words whenever possible. Concrete words are ones that you can visualize. Try to use plain language instead of scientific terms. If you must use a scientific term, define it in simple language. For example, use the word “• Use familiar language, examples, personal experiences, and characters with whom the audience can relate.
  2. Write with your audiences in mind. Remember, your objective is to produce a brochure or letter that will be clear, appealing, and motivating to your audiences. If you can achieve this objective, you will enhance the likelihood that participation in your program will increase. Keeping your audiences in mind as you write means targeting and tailoring your content and the way it is presented to the groups and individuals in your intended audiences.
  3. Make your headers work hard. Good, clear headers are important guideposts that your audience can use to trace key points through the text. Use them to your advantage.
  4. Keep your paragraphs short. Short paragraphs are more inviting and easier to read than long paragraphs and they allow for more topic sentences to guide the reader through your material.
  5. Consider using a Question & Answer format. This can be a good way to break up text, highlight key concepts, and make your text accessible to readers. Use what you know about your audience and their information needs to frame the questions in ways that will feel realistic to your audience.
  6. Emphasize important points without distracting from the readability.
    • Use underline or bold rather than italics or all CAPS for emphasis.
    • Use bullets to break up text. Try to use no more than five items in a bulleted list.
    • Place key points first and last on a list. This is where the reader will best see and remember them.
  7. Write about one concept at a time. Skipping back and forth between concepts can be confusing.
  8. Frame the information in culturally appropriate ways.
    • Acknowledge culture as a predominant force in shaping behaviors, values, and institutions.
    • Understand and reflect the diversity within cultures. In designing messages that are culturally appropriate, the following dimensions are important:
    • Primary cultural factors linked to race, ethnicity, language, nationality, and religion
      Secondary cultural factors linked to age, gender, sexual orientation, educational level,
      occupation, income level, and acculturation to the mainstream culture.
    • Reflect and respect the attitudes and values of the intended audience; some examples of attitudes and values that are interrelated with culture include:
    • —Whether the individual or the community is of primary importance
      —Accepted roles of men, women, and children
      —preferred family structure (nuclear or extended)

Decide Whether to Translate Materials
It is always best to write materials for your intended audience in their own language, but you may decide at times to use materials written in your own language and then translate them into the language of your audience. Materials translated from the language of the original source materials into a target language need to be reliable, complete, accurate, and culturally appropriate.

Suggested citation: National Cancer Institute (NCI). Designing print materials: A communications guide for breast cancer screening.
Bethesda (MD): NIH, 2007. NIH Publication No. 07-6100.

Last modified: Friday, 27 April 2012, 11:02 AM