I am a researcher – how can I write simple English for my patients?
12 February 2020. Related: All topics, Research.
Hi, I am involved in research and have when I send patients information out for comments, I am often told the readability is too difficult. Do you have any tips that can help.
Thanks for a great question. At i-Base we often get asked to comment on patient information. It nearly always uses language that is difficult for most people to understand easily.
Unfortunately, on the path to becoming researchers, many people forget how to explain their research simply.
This is a shame. It can put a barrier between research and the people that studies want to help.
The following notes might help.
Your text should follow guidance for plain English.
1. The easiest single practical guide is to use short sentences. Try not to use more than 12-15 words in a sentence. It is easy to count.
Split long sentences into smaller ones. Many sentences will be much shorter. Simple to understand. Easy to read. More interesting too :)
This link explains how we do this at i-Base:
2. Don’t use words with more than two syllables. Or use as few as possible. Explain technical terms in simple words.
Again this is easy. Read the draft text and then change them.
3. Cut and paste the body text into the text box at this link.
This will give you an average reading ease score to estimate readability.
4. The overall target should be Grade level 6 (or lower – lower is better). This is defined as “Fairly easy to read”.
The Flesch Reading Ease score should be above 70 (higher is better).
ie: Readability Consensus
Based on (7) readability formulas, we have scored your text:
Grade Level: 6
Reading Level: fairly easy to read.
Reader’s Age: 10-11 yrs. olds (Fifth and Sixth graders)
5. If the text doesn’t meet these targets, go back and edit until it does.
6. When it does meet these rough targets, it is okay to send for comment :)
NOTE: The text on this web page has a Flesch Reading Ease Score of 75. It is Grade level 5 (fairly easy to read). Reading age 8-9 year olds.