Do not use jargon. Explain medical, clinical or health service terms or words

online health infoThis isn’t just about avoiding obviously clinical words, for example ‘titrate’, but also about words that mean different things in a clinical context, for example ‘positive’.

Why is this important?

Attendees again highlighted the importance of readability of the material in terms of its visual presentation, for example the size of the text, and its content providing meaningful information for the medicine user and not using ‘technical language’.

DK Raynor, A Blenkinsopp, P Knapp, J Grime, DJ Nicolson, K Pollock, G Dorer, S Gilbody, D Dickinson, AJ Maule and P Spoor., A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative research on the role and effectiveness of written information available to patients about individual medicines. (2007) Vol. 11: No. 5.. Health Technology Assessment.

Changes to the wording included shortening sentences and paragraphs, as well as replacing difficult or technical words with a lay alternative. Examples include: from 'disease going into complete remission' to 'getting rid of the leukemia'; from 'nausea and vomiting' to 'feeling and being sick'; and from '...doctor will check your blood chemistry' to '...doctor will do blood tests'.

Knapp P, Raynor D, Silcock J, Parkinson B, Can user testing of a clinical trial patient information sheet make it fit-for-purpose? (2011) 9:89 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-89. BMC Medicine
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Resources to support you

  • Care and Support Jargon Buster

    A plain English guide to the most commonly used social care words and phrases and what they mean. The definitions are plain English rather than legal, and were developed and tested by a steering group that included people who use services, carers, representatives from local authorities, information providers and key stakeholders from across the social care sector.

  • SMOG Calculator

    A calculator to help check the readability level of documents or texts from a website.

  • Producing good medicines information

    Written by Theo Raynor and David Dickinson, this ‘Quick Guide’ is based on a paper published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy in 2009. It covers four key areas of producing good medicines information (‘words’, ‘type’, ‘lines’, ‘layout’) with a list of 10 ground rules.

  • How to write medical information in plain English

    This guide gives applies the plain English approach to medical information. It includes examples and a glossary. It also covers design and layout.

  • Skilled for Health Glossary

    A clear language glossary of health and well-being terms.

  • Plain Words

    The message of this book is that writing should be as clear and comprehensible as possible, avoiding superfluous words and clichés.

  • Drivel Defence

    A software package that will help you to check the use of plain English in reports, letters and websites.

  • A-Z of alternative words

    This guide gives hundreds of plain English alternatives to ‘the ‘pompous words and phrases that litter official writing’.

  • Skills for Life Survey: headline findings

    The survey aims to produce a national profile of adult literacy, numeracy, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills, and to assess the impact that different levels of skills have on people’s lives.

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How have others done this?

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Pauline talks about how health information has helped her