Numeracy Icon Array

University of Michigan

Sometimes known as pictographs, icon arrays are used as an evidence-based standard in medical risk communication. Icon arrays use a matrix of icons to represent an at-risk population, simultaneously displaying both the number of expected events and the number of expected non-events. This tool can be read simply by counting icons and clearly shows the part-whole relationship in both relative count and relative area. It is an example of Numeracy, which is how we communicate about numbers. Make your own downloadable, linked, or embedded visual graphic of risk/frequency.


Substitute Words List

University of Utah Health Sciences Center

Since health writing usually uses technical terms, it is helpful to the reader to use shorter words whenever possible. Here is a list of words that are commonly found in health literature. Using the substitute word instead of the technical word will help improve the readability of your material. Use this list of substitute words for difficult-to-understand, abstract terminology.

Plain Language Thesaurus

University of Washington

This Plain Language Thesaurus has been put together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Marketing. The thesaurus offers plain language alternatives to medical terms, phrases, and references that we often use

“How To” Tips for Plain Language works to improve communication from the Federal Government to the Public. This site provides shortcuts to a wealth of materials. Resources include: quick reference tips on writing clear documents, word suggestions to keep your writing jargon-free, dictionaries, thesauruses, style guides, and grammar sites, as well as tips for starting your own plain-language programs.

The Health Literacy Style Manual

The Maximus Center for Health Literacy

This 105-page book includes hints and suggestions for developing and improving applications, notices, and other print materials related to government programs. Included are some tried-and-true strategies for writing and formatting specifically for clients, many of whom have limited literacy skills. There are chapters on project planning, writing, formatting and style, application and other forms, field testing, and translations.

Quick Checklist for Plain Language

The Maximus Center for Health Literacy

This two-sided reference will help you check your print and web materials for plain language and formatting that helps readers find and understand key messages. Check your materials for Reader Focus, Organization, Writing, Design, and Formatting. The more items with checks, the more likely it will be that readers can understand and use the material. Tips for checking the language are also included.

Health Literacy Tool Shed

U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), in collaboration with Boston University School of Medicine

The Health Literacy Tool Shed is an online database of health literacy measures. The site contains information about measures, including their psychometric properties, based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature.