1 - User Friendly and Plain English
Keep the language simple
Write in language that’s as simple as possible.
Simple language makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities, and research shows that everyone prefers simple language, including specialist audiences, because it allows them to understand information as quickly as possible. Evidence of the research can be found in:
- Guest Post: Clarity is king – the evidence that reveals the desperate need to re-think the way we write
- What is content design and why do we care?
- To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple
- Writing Digital Copy for Domain Experts.
Where you need to use technical terms, abbreviations or acronyms, explain what they mean the first time you use them. For example, National Insurance (NI).
Keep the document simple
- Give the document a meaningful title.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
- Make sure the text is left aligned, not fully justified (edge to edge).
- Avoid underlining, except for links.
- Documents with single, continuous columns of text are easier to make accessible than documents with a more complex layout.
- Avoid footnotes where possible. Provide explanations inline instead.
- Avoid images containing text, as it’s not possible to resize the text in the image.
Give the document a structure
- Break up your document to make it more readable.
- Use bullet points, numbered steps and meaningful subheadings.
- Do not use bold to mark up subheadings. Use styles to create a hierarchy of headings: ‘heading 1’, ‘heading 2’ and so on (also a very important part of the ‘regulatory’ accessibility factor).
- Use single TAB instead of spaces for paragraph indentations.