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Healthy Language Is Plain Language

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Using plain language when writing for healthcare is key to helping people understand and improve their health. Marli Mesibov offers advice on how to write in plain language.

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Healthy Language Is Plain Language

  1. 1. 1 PREPARED BY HEALTHY LANGUAGE IS PLAIN LANGUAGE @MARSINTHESTARS March 11, 2020 Mad*Pow Marli Mesibov, VP of Content Strategy Mad*Pow
  2. 2. 2 Content strategy is only successful if it delivers the right message to the right audience at the right time. …and if the audience can understand it. @marsinthestars Marli Mesibov, VP Content Strategy
  3. 3. 3 Why are you here today? Maybe you want to… • Understand what separates plain language from other content • Gain confidence in looking for resources to reduce jargon and clarify language • Feel comfortable and confident using readability and SEO tools • Know how to measure the success of plain language across a specific population @marsinthestars Plain Language Webinar: Goals
  4. 4. 4 WHAT IS PLAIN LANGUAGE? Easier said than done.
  5. 5. 5 • Easy to read • Easy to understand • Created for this audience • Can be used to meet specific needs @marsinthestars Plain language overview
  6. 6. 6 We live in a complicated world, where health, wealth, and education do not come easily. We need plain language to make people healthy, wealthy, and wise. @marsinthestars Why do People Need Plain Language?
  7. 7. 7 @marsinthestars Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise Need to be healthy to: • Work • Make money • Process information Need money to: • Buy nutritious food • Get higher education • Decrease stress (improve health) Need knowledge to: • Know how to take care of your health • Know how to save and spend money We need good communication for all three
  8. 8. 8 Some of the tools and processes we’ll look at: Tools • • Hemmingway app • SEO Moz @marsinthestars Tools and Process Processes • Health literacy planning • Population empathy/sympathy • Jargon elimination
  9. 9. 9 INCLUSIVITY Easier said than done.
  10. 10. 10 Inclusive design keeps the diversity and uniqueness of each individual in mind. Not designing for “anyone” or “everyone” but for each person. (Yes, it’s more work.) @marsinthestars Inclusivity
  11. 11. 11 Personas may be old hat, but MPACT behavioral personas skip demographics in favor of understanding why people act. @marsinthestars Inclusivity Requires Understanding
  12. 12. 12 @marsinthestars Inclusivity Requires Planning Source: Design for Real Life “Placing personas within different potential contexts – here, varying times of day – can help you identify stress cases.” - Erik A. Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  13. 13. 13 “The good physician treats the disease. The great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” - William Osler @marsinthestars Inclusivity Requires Context
  14. 14. 14 Consider Health Literacy Levels: The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. @marsinthestars Context: What Information Does Your Audience Have?
  15. 15. 15 @marsinthestars Example: Plain Language on Source: Visible Thread
  16. 16. 16 • What is the problem? • How does the user speak about it? • How would they describe it? • Where can we educate, and where can we learn? @marsinthestars How to Approach Plain Language Content
  17. 17. 17 ACCESSIBILITY It’s for everyone!
  18. 18. 18 @marsinthestars What is Accessibility? “Remember, we’re all just temporarily abled.” - Facundo Corradini, Accessibility for Vestibular Disorders (A List Apart) Source: Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit
  19. 19. 19 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Managed by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. Around since 1999 @marsinthestars Enter WCAG
  20. 20. 20 Current version: 2.1 (updated 2018) Updates WCAG with modern web considerations Mobile / adaptable sites Responsive sites Touch interfaces @marsinthestars Enter WCAG
  21. 21. 21 Say AAaaaaa WCAG Guidelines come with three levels of testable Success Criteria: A: Essential / “the basics” AA: The de-facto expected standard AAA: Advanced or specialised (but worth looking at) @marsinthestars Enter WCAG
  22. 22. 22 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  23. 23. 23
  24. 24. 24 @marsinthestars 1.1 Do you have alt-text for images?
  25. 25. 25
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. 27 @marsinthestars 1.1 Do you have alt-text for charts and infographics? Worst: Bad: alt=”” Unhelpful: alt=”a bar chart” Better: “a chart showing League Points for 2019. The Jaguars scored 24, the Ocelots 36, and the Ligers 12” Best: alt + text alternative + interactivity
  28. 28. 28 @marsinthestars 1.4.1 Are you using more than just color to convey information? Source:
  29. 29. 29 @marsinthestars 2.4.9 Do your links make sense independent of context? Click here Click here Click here Click here Click here Click here Click here Read about accessibility Fill out a contact form See more case studies Learn more about cancer Download “Accessibility” white paper Find a doctor Discover our research labs If a screen reader sees “Click Here” it makes no sense
  30. 30. 30 @marsinthestars 2.4.9 Do your links make sense independent of context? VERB e.g. Download VERB + NOUN e.g. Download PDF VERB + DESCRIPTIVE NOUN e.g. Download accessibility PDF The secret to good links is specificity
  31. 31. 31 @marsinthestars 3.1.5 Is Content Readable (Tip: use
  32. 32. 32 @marsinthestars Source: Use the Right Vocab
  33. 33. 33 @marsinthestars 3.3 Are Error Messages Clear and Helpful?
  34. 34. 34 @marsinthestars Accessibility Checklist More Resources:
  35. 35. 35 @marsinthestars Case Study: Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
  36. 36. 36 FUN Who says we can’t have it all?
  37. 37. 37 @marsinthestars “Fun” Content is Content with Personality Everyone’s favorite MailChimp example
  38. 38. 38 @marsinthestars Creating a Voice For each adjective that defines your brand, identify: Why it matters What we know about users. How we do it Describe what this voice means/sounds like. What it sounds like Not… 1-2 sentence example 1-2 sentence example On the Website 1-2 sentence example Not… 1-2 sentence example
  39. 39. 39 @marsinthestars Example: RA Digital Companion Voice is crafted in theory, but must work in practice
  40. 40. 40 @marsinthestars Voice and SEO Go Hand in Hand
  41. 41. 41 @marsinthestars SEO is Your Plain Language Secret Sauce Good SEO means good content: • Choosing 1 word/phrase to be the focus of your page content • Using that term in your title, in the page text, and 1-2 headers (but not spamming with it!!) • Linking to external and internal pages related to your key phrase • Using language your audience uses (inclusivity!) • Using alt text for images, charts, etc. (accessibility!)
  42. 42. 42 TAKEAWAYS Let’s make the world healthy, wealthy, and wise
  43. 43. 43 @marsinthestars Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise We can use inclusive language to simplify and personalize healthcare We can improve financial wellness by making everything (health, finance, and other content) accessible We can make knowledge more fun and easier to find with good SEO We can create plain language for all
  44. 44. 44 @marsinthestars Questions? Marli Mesibov, VP of Content Strategy Mad*Pow @marsinthestars | |