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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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  Checklist for Creating Patient Education Materials
  Document length should be 2 pages or less
  Document font should be 12 point or larger. A serif font, such as Times, is recommended.
  Do not use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, even in the title of the document
  Avoid acronyms and contractions by spelling out all words
  Use simple, declarative sentences with maximum of 10 to 15 words
  Use simple words with one or two syllables.
  Paragraphs should contain no more than two or three sentences.
  Use words and phrases familiar to the audience.
  Materials should be justified and contain sufficient white space surrounding text with at least one inch margins.
  If a word or phrase needs to be emphasized, use a large font, bold, or underline. Avoid using italics.
  Avoid using too much space between the paragraph headings. The text and title should be in close proximity.
  Information should be written in an active voice rather than a passive voice:
  • Passive example: An appointment letter will be sent to you.
  • Active example: We will send an appointment letter to you.
  Avoid technical words or jargon. If you must use a technical word, define it by explaining any terms that might be new to the reader.
  • Technical example: This medication reduces intra-operative bleeding.
  • Non-technical: This medicine will reduce bleeding during the surgery.
  Use strong, vivid verbs. Often, verbs are changed into nouns and adjectives. This makes sentences longer, weaker, and harder to read.
  • Verb Example: Mary Garcia was responsible for writing this patient brochure.
  • Verb Example: Mary Garcia wrote this patient brochure.
  Avoid too much information for patients to absorb by keeping the message simple.
  Images should be simple without an excess in detail to avoid clutter and confusion.
  Avoid images or illustrations that could be considered culturally insensitive.
  • Example: If patients have religious or cultural beliefs such that they would be uncomfortable seeing pictures of body parts unclothed or reading about particular health topics.
  • Example: an image of an owl may be considered a bad omen to some tribes
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