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Plain Language Training

The following resources will help introduce you to plain language science writing. The list includes online training courses, as well as other websites that include helpful information about clear writing and communication.

Online Training Modules

Program for Readability in Science & Medicine (PRISM)
An hour-long, Web-based plain language tutorial created especially for research professionals, including scientists, research staff, IRB administrators, or communications staff. It covers background information on health literacy and readability, plain language strategies and examples specific to research, and interactive editing examples and exercises.

NIH Plain Language Training
a short online course from NIH that introduces the basics of plain language. Modules one through seven contain tales of medical history, some exercises, and a summary. The eighth module contains optional exercises for additional practice. Also provides a list of Web sites that you can use as you continue to expand your writing skills.

Unified Health Communication (UHC): Addressing Health Literacy, Cultural Competency, and Limited English Proficiency
A free, on-line, go-at-your-own-pace training that has helped more than 4,000 health care professionals and students improve patient-provider communication. It addresses low literacy levels, cultural diversity, and low English proficiency.

Plain Language Guides

The PRISM Readability Toolkit
A handbook for researchers illustrating how to use plain language in participant materials. It includes an introduction to plain language principles and strategies; a quick reference guide and editing checklist; and alternative wording suggestions.

Assessing and Developing Health Materials
From the Harvard School of Public Health, offers tips to consider when creating educational materials and provides links to helpful tools.

Clear & Simple
Guidelines from the National Cancer Institute for developing effective print materials for low-literate readers.

Health Literacy Online
A guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health Web sites from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

How to Write Easy-to-Read Health Materials
Provides information about creating easy-to-read materials. From MedLinePlus.

Plain Language
Describes why plain language is a promising strategy for clearly communicating health information and improving health literacy.

Plain Language.gov
Contains guidelines for creating plain language materials, as well as an overview of the plain language movement and tools for trainers.

Plain Language & Health Literacy Websites
A list compiled by The Ohio State University AHEC Clear Health Communication Program.

SMOG (Simple Measure of Goobledygook)
This online tool calculates the grade level of written materials using a readability formula that estimates the years of education needed to understand a piece of writing.

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective
Provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools to help make written material easier for people to read, understand, and use. From the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Usability.gov
One-stop source for Web designers to learn how to make Websites more usable, useful, and accessible.

Words Count
Contains several tools to measure readability, including CLEAR, SMOG and syllable counter.