Use plain language
When writing for a general audience, you should make the content as easy to understand as possible. We aim for an 8th to 9th grade reading level for our writing. There are a number of online evaluation tools will score your writing’s reading level. You can use those tools to revise and modify as needed to make the content more understandable. Please note, some of these tools might capture data; please use caution if working with sensitive content.
Academic and medical content uses a lot of phrases not familiar to larger audiences. When possible, use more familiar synonyms. For example, more people would understand “dog cancer” than they would “canine oncology”.
Avoid passive voice
We share a lot of complicated healthcare research with our audiences. By using active voice, we make our content clear and concise. Passive voice makes our sentences less clear and more difficult to understand. The Purdue Writing Lab explains the difference between passive and active voice.
This is especially helpful for those using screen readers. After the name is heard and the acronym is spelled out, the user will be better able to associate the sound of the acronym with the full name.
It’s important to note that assistive technology only spells out acronyms with four or more characters by individual letters. For shorter acronyms like “UF”, put dashes in between each letter when writing image descriptions or alt-text for it to be read correctly, “U-F”. If you don’t, it would treat this as word and pronounce it ‘uff’.
Don’t use non web-standard fonts
You might see some posts using non-standard web fonts – this is done by pasting each letter into the post from a different font library. Here’s an example from Twitter:
You 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 it’s 𝒸𝓊𝓉ℯ to 𝘄𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 your tweets and usernames 𝖙𝖍𝖎𝖘 𝖜𝖆𝖞. But have you 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙙 to what it 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 with assistive technologies like 𝓥𝓸𝓲𝓬𝓮𝓞𝓿𝓮𝓻? https://twitter.com/kentcdodds/status/1083080784682995712?lang=en
While, if used in moderation, this might be visually appealing, it creates major accessibility issues. If you click on the link above, this tweet has a recording of how the text from this post would be read aloud. You’ll hear how it would be indecipherable for a user using such a device.
Avoiding Ableist Language
It’s important to be mindful when we are selecting words when we are writing copy. Instead of saying “See what John Smith has to say” try something like, “Learn more from John Smith”.
Use Camel Case in Hashtags
Social media platforms default to showing hashtags as lowercase letters. We recommend using “Camel Case”, which is capitalizing the first letter in every word in your hashtag. CamelCase is easier to read. For a screen reader, it breaks the hashtag into individual words when reading aloud. Without that cue, the screen reader would try and read the hashtag as one incomprehensible word.
- Good: #UFHealthFightsFlu would be read as separate words.
- Bad: #nowthatchersdead – this hashtag was used following Margaret Thatcher’s death for discussing what it meant for British politics. In the United States, confused audiences thought that Cher had died. Camel Case avoids confusing and potentially embarrassing misinterpretations.
Use emojis sparingly. An emoji is a simple way to convey an emotion, feeling or concept. However, a screen reader has to audibly describe what the emoji is for people with particular accessibility needs. If a post has many emojis – especially if they are interspersed throughout the post, it can make the other content difficult to understand.
Have a Proofreader!
We always recommend having a second person look over your posts if you can, especially if you’re about to write something around a sensitive issue. We’re all human, and we’ll miss something others might notice right away!