Re-posted from our Translating in Plain Language Blog on Wednesday, September 4, 2013:
The Plain Language writing approach looks at strategies in the initial introduction of any document which can be so very important and the reader’s first perception is influenced by the way that the topic is introduced and presented. This may be a deciding factor in whether or not the reader will even pay attention…..so really put time into the introduction with that in mind!
Give the most important first in the Plain Language writing approach
- Give the most important information first
- Tell them what actions to take
- Explain it is important
The example below is the Intro to a book we wrote on Diabetes Management for a Managed Health care plan. A warm welcome section at the beginning tells the reader “HOW” to use the book. A limited literacy reader does not read from start to finish or cover to cover. Good Health Literacy materials allow the reader to skim (subheads at the top of every page or section).
We were recently advising on content that was targeted to Hispanic employees of a company that had a health promotion program. What can you do in the intro when targeting this population with this kind of program? Consider using a culturally and linguistic approach that respects cultural values, beliefs and practices of the intended audience.
Hispanics are collectivists – health values, beliefs and practices of the individual are linked with those of the family and community. The intended audience for health promotion efforts may need to be the family or community rather than solely the individual. Care must also be taken to define family and community in ways that are in line with the culture of the recipient.
An example of doing so would be addressing the health disparities of the different groups.
Health Literacy writing also incorporates educational models in the writing. You could research those and that might help you to seek for further answers and incorporate them in your writing. Two models to research would be “self efficacy” and “locus of control.”
We know that as a general rule with the Health Belief Model that people will respond best to messages on health promotion or prevention when they:
- Perceive that they are susceptible (at risk) and that the risk is serious.
- They will receive benefits from a change in their behavior – this is the motivation to change that behavior.
- The barriers (pain, cost, etc.) to changing their behaviors are not too great. They can do it. Show them they can do it and have small successes (education model of self efficacy).