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This is a collaborative project to develop inclusive, universal style guidance. It was created by Sarah Richards from Content Design London.

Since July 2018 we've been discussing and, importantly, identifying usability evidence for the following topics.

Topics

Clear language

Plain English
Sentence structure
Sentence length
Specialist terms
Legal
Words to avoid/jargon
Headings
Links
CTA (calls to action) and buttons
Writing for mobile

Capital letters, punctuation, numbers

Capitals
Abbreviations and acronyms
Ampersands
Hyphens
Contractions
Numbers

People

Writing about people
Use of I/We/You: audience labels

Get involved

Dive in:

Top level findings

1. Use simple sentences: complex sentences take more brain power to process, make readability more difficult for low literacy level users and are harder to translate.

2. Avoid capitalising words: people are more used to reading lowercase letters so comprehension is slower for capitalised words.

3. Keep link text to the end of the sentence whenever possible: this reduces cognitive load and can work better for users with autism.

4. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms except where users know them better in abbreviated form, for example GIF and 5KB. This reduces user confusion.

5. Avoid referencing gender or age: it’s generally not necessary and can easily make your content non-inclusive.

6. Choose respectful vocabulary: research what language could be emotive for your users by exploring forums, blogs and social media, and carrying out user testing.

7. Readability best practices, like using plain, simple language, short sentences, active tense, good grammar and accurate punctuation, improves ease of translation for localisation of content.

Questions we asked

We identified these questions in Alpha and researched usability evidence to find answers to them in Beta. Alpha ran from July to October, 2018. Beta was October to December 2018. We held live weekly, global discussions in Slack. And our Slack topic discussion channels are staying open. You can still add your thoughts and usability evidence there or on the topic and discussion pages of this public wiki.

  • Do abbreviations/acronyms make sentences more or less difficult to read?
  • Can we identify any abbreviations/acronyms that are universally recognised?
  • Are all screen readers OK with the ampersand symbol?
  • Do ampersands help or hinder readability of navigation, titles and names?
  • Are there screen readers that read out each individual letter of a capped word?
  • Can we gather a comprehensive as possible list of how screen readers read out dashes (and what they do with hyphens?)
  • Can we comprehensively research screen readers with other punctuation that conveys meaning or adds nuance, like brackets?
  • Can we formalise the low literacy primary evidence about positive and possessive contractions into a usability study?
  • Do positive and possessive contractions cause issues for people with dyslexia, poor vision and learning difficulties?
  • Does having a link mid-sentence impair readability?
  • Defining style guidance on numbers, based on Alpha considerations. We will also explore some sub-topics.
  • Can we identify some evidence for plain language being more user-friendly? (Very similar to legal language evidence study findings but it would be good to have something more general to point to for stakeholders.)
  • Can we identify evidence for simple sentence construction being more user-friendly?
  • Is there a tool to test a word against reading age 9/low literacy level vocabulary?
  • Is it easier for users with a high level of knowledge of a subject (specialist audiences) to read content that includes specialist terms?
  • Is there any evidence around increased engagement and uptake of services by less advantaged/minority groups when content written in positive inclusive language?
  • Are there any user interviews about how likely people would be to uptake a service/buy a thing/recommend organisation, company or product based on the content language?

How it started

The Readability Guidelines Alpha

We are here to explore:

  • if an open community of content people want to contribute to a single style guide
  • if we'd like to rely on evidence for the style guide elements – and if yes, what evidence would be most useful
  • if a wiki model is sustainable

plus anything else along the way :)

More details can be found in the first Readability Guidelines blog post.

This is a totally open project. As long as all participation is respectful and comments are given in the spirit of positive open learning – please dive in! Its creator is Sarah Richards from Content Design London. Any comments or queries outside of this wiki, please get in touch on twitter @escmum.

You are welcome to comment on, or create, wiki pages! Please include evidence to support your thinking.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License