Guidelines for Developing Patient Education Materials

  Download a Printable Flyer for Posting at Your Facility

  • Use visuals as much as possible (DVDs or printed illustrations) of anatomical features of the specific system that relates to the patient's problem or need
  • Choose books, pamphlets, and/or brochures that are written at a third to fifth grade level
  • Use short sentences (10 words or less) when developing printed materials
  • Write paragraphs with no more than two or three sentences with one key point per paragraph
  • Focus efforts on key bullet points of "must know" information
  • Use visual terms such as "runny nose" and "redness"
  • Explain measurements, e.g. "pain that lasts more than 30 minutes"
  • Clearly list when the patient needs to call the doctor and what phone number to call
  • Focus on actions patients should do using familiar words
  • Use plain language: Define any terms that are difficult to understand
  • Have patient and family members "teach back" the information to you to ensure understanding
  • Be aware of language, customs, and values to create a culturally sensitive and effective tool
  • Use wide margins and leave white space between sections
  • Find an advocate for the person with low literacy who will ensure that the individual understands and follows through with instructions
This flyer is part of a continuing series on health literacy brought to you by the Patient Education Special Interest Group. You are encouraged to post these tips in your clinical practice areas.