Creating health information everyone can use is about more than plain language. It is about making sure the language and tone you use is appropriate for your target audience. This might be due to:

  • Cultural background
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Disability

 

Remember one size does not fit all! To reach seldom heard and diverse audiences we need to adapt.

 

Involving users

The best way to make sure your information is inclusive and culturally appropriate is co-production and user testing.

 

Person-first v disability-first language

  • Person-first language is the medical model – ‘a person with a disability’.
  • Disability-first language is from the social model – ‘I am a disabled person’.

User testing can help you identify the most appropriate model.

Positive not negative

Pro

  • ✅ ‘people have’

Con

  • ❌ ‘people suffer with’

Try to avoid phrases with negative connotations – ‘going down a blind alley’ ‘tone deaf’.

 

Ask why

  • Why are we using these words?
  • What images do we use?
  • What colours?
  • What tone and branding?
  • What assumptions are we making?

 

Top tips

  • Ask questions
  • Write for your target audience
  • Read content created by those you want to reach
  • Look for conflicting views
  • Be inclusive without reducing to stereotypes
  • Remember health literacy
  • Explain when challenged and adjust when appropriate

 

Case study: Letting the user choose their terms

CoppaFeel! gives users the option to choose the language most appropriate to them.

self-checkout.coppafeel.org/onboarding-first-things-first

 

Produced by the Patient Information Forum. Published June 2022. Review date June 2024.

 

Download the poster

Inclusive language download image

Inclusive language matters

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