Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective

View the original, full toolkit on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.

The  Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective is a health literacy resource from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  As shown below, this 11-part Toolkit provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools to help you make written material in printed formats easier for people to read, understand, and use.

Toolkit Part 1: About this toolkit and how it can help you

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Toolkit Part 2: Using a reader-centered approach to develop and test written material

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Toolkit Part 3: Summary List of the “Toolkit Guidelines for Writing and Design”

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Toolkit Part 4: Guidelines for Writing

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Toolkit Part 5: Understanding and using the “Toolkit Guidelines for Graphic Design”

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Toolkit Part 6: How to collect and use feedback from readers

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Toolkit Part 7: Using readability formulas: A cautionary note

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Why be cautious about using readability formulas?

  • Reason for caution 1: Readability formulas ignore most factors that contribute to ease of reading and comprehension.
  • Reason for caution 2: Grade level scores tend to be unreliable.
  • Reason for caution 3: Grade level scores are less precise than they sound and prone to misinterpretation.
  • Reason for caution 4: Imposing a grade level requirement has the potential to do harm.

Recommendations for using readability formulas 

  • Recommendation 1:  Do not use readability formulas to assess overall suitability.
  • Recommendation 2:  Pick your formula and method carefully.
  • Recommendation 3:  Interpret reading grade level scores broadly as indicating a general range of difficulty.
  • Recommendation 4:  Report grade level scores in ways that acknowledge their narrow scope and limitations.

Toolkit Part 8: Will your written material be on a website?

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Toolkit Part 9: Things to know if your written material is for older adults

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Toolkit Part 10: “Before and after” example: Using this Toolkit’s guidelines to revise a brochure

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Toolkit Part 11: Understanding and using the “Toolkit Guidelines for Culturally Appropriate Translation”

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