Guidelines and Other Resources To Fine-tune Your Writing

Guidelines for writing, checklists, and tip sheets give you a systematic way to help make sure you are doing all you can to produce clear, compelling text.

The guidelines and checklist tools listed below focus on writing in plain language. These tools will help you write effectively for an audience that includes people with a broad range of literacy skills. They offer guidance for writing in ways that make your material clear and simple without “talking down,” sacrificing content, or distorting the meaning.

  • Health Literacy Online: A Guide to Writing and Designing Easy-to-Use Health Web Sites. This guide provides information on creating health Web sites and Web content for users with limited literacy skills and limited experience using the Web. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). Available at http://www.health.gov/healthliteracyonline/.
  • Letting Go of The Words: Writing Web Content That Works. This book by Janice (Ginny) Redish offers many tips and examples on writing succinctly and clearly. Elsevier, Inc. 2007.
  • Understanding and using the “Toolkit Guidelines for Writing.” This is in the Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective (forthcoming), Section 2, Part 4. Written by Jeanne McGee for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Posted October 20, 2010 at http://www.cms.gov/WrittenMaterialsToolkit/06_ToolkitPart04.asp#TopOfPage.
  • The Suitability Assessment of Material. This tool is in Doak CC, Doak L, Root J. Teaching Patients With Low Literacy Skills, Second Edition. Philadelphia; J.B. Lippincott Co.; 1996.
  • PlainLanguage.gov at http://www.plainlanguage.gov/index.cfm. This site includes tools to help with writing plain language as well as the Federal plain language guidelines. It is maintained by the Plain Language Action and Information Network, a group of federal employees from different agencies and specialties.
  • Hochhauser M. Can Consumers Understand Managed Care Report Cards? Managed Care Interface 1998; 11(11): 91-95.
  • Hochhauser M. Eight Tips for Writing More Effectively. Healthplan 1996; 37(6): 27; 29-30.
  • Hochhauser M. HMO Report Cards: Communication Strategies vs. Consumer Abilities. Managed Care Quarterly 1999; 7(3): 75-82.

Recommended references for good writing:

  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (9th Edition) by Joseph M. Williams.
  • Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White.

Also in "Tips on Writing a Quality Report"

Page last reviewed May 2015
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Guidelines and Other Resources To Fine-tune Your Writing. Content last reviewed May 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/talkingquality/resources/writing/guidelines.html