Do You Consider Low Literacy When you Write for the General Public?

Strategies of low-lit readers

People with low literacy skills have difficulty understanding what they read because they’re spending so much effort on decoding—word and letter recognition—that they have few cognitive resources left to interpret meaning. They may read every word put in front of them, but because they don’t have much left to attend to comprehension, they take little meaning from what they read.

When you observe someone who has low literacy skills reading, you’ll likely see some of the following behaviors:

Reading one word at a time.

Taking things literally.

Avoiding reading altogether.

Satisficing (skimming, or only reading the first or last sentences).

Retaining little.

Accommodating low-literacy readers

You might be feeling like there is little you can do to accommodate unskilled readers. But take heart: there are plenty of ways to present information that make it easier (if not exactly easy) for low-literacy adults to understand and use it.
Make it easy to read: Writing text at an appropriate level can help to ensure that the reader has a better chance of understanding and being able to use the information. Plain language guidelines like using common words and shorter sentences will help.

Make it look easy to read: As important as making information easy to read is making it look easy to read. Designing a simple layout with lots of white space, type that is large enough to be easily read, and headings that provide visual cues about the content will make the interface less intimidating.

Include only what’s important: Given that it takes so much effort required by low-lit readers to decode text, much less interpret and apply it, you should only cover information they need to know, not what’s nice to know. Focus first on actions the user should do, not the theory behind why it should be done.

Be consistent: Using synonyms (for example, alternating between using “dairy” and “milk” at different points in text to describe dietary restrictions for a medication) requires additional cognitive resources. What is often obvious to skilled readers—like using two different words to mean the same thing—requires more work for poor readers to decipher.

Provide feedback: Let users know there are a certain number of steps to achieve a desired result and where they are in the process; in other words, provide a light at the end of the tunnel. Provide validation whenever possible. Otherwise, low-lit users may opt out.

via The Audience You Didn’t Know You Had | Contents Magazine.

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