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“Writing with accessibility in mind means that you are trying to ensure that your content can be read and understood by as wide an audience as possible.”
Unlike in academic writing, most public communications are written in a less jargon filled way, making academic research easier to understand.
Writing for the public means you must think about the language you use and the style in which you write. For example, a blog post will be written in an informal, conversational way whereas a Letter to the Editor will be formal. For information on each format of Public Communications check out the Formats section of this guide.
No matter which format you produce, it needs to be readable and accessible to appeal to a wider audience.
Accessible doesn’t mean dumbed down.
Making something readable means making it easy to follow. Academic papers are written with academic readers in mind, whereas public communications are written for the general public. Therefore, you need to make sure people from a non-academic background, who may have less knowledge on your topic find your work easy to understand.
Here are a few ways to help make your writing readable:
Make sure it flows well using paragraphs. Ask yourself, does the next paragraph connect to the last? For more guidance check out our guide on Structuring Paragraphs.
Using sub-headings to break up sections of your writing will also help it flow.
If your writing is full of jargon, try using different language and terminology to remove barriers.
Try simplifying your points and help readers visualise by using metaphors and similes. For more information on literary devices go to the Writing Techniques section on this guide.
Be clear and concise with the language you use.
An example for when using jargon: a medical professional may use terminology rarely used by those outside of their practice.
When explaining how a patient has a heart condition, to make it clearer to those not familiar with the terminology they can say: “The patient has a heart condition called tachycardia which increases their heart rate.” Rather than saying, “they have tachycardia.”
Remember you are writing for those who may not be in your field of work.
There are many things to consider when making your work accessible: fonts, text size, colours to name a few. You want to engage with as wide an audience as possible, but if your work isn’t fully accessible you are excluding certain groups.
Some people who are dyslexic struggle with reading italics, so use a different way to emphasise text, make it bold, change the colour or the font.
When using coloured text be aware of those with visual impairments; does the text contrast with the background of the page? Same can be said for fonts. Use the regular variant, not the light one as they can be hard to read.
Be careful to not discriminate. For example, using the right terminology for groups of people – refugee, immigrant, asylum seeker. These are all different but can be easy to mix up.
Always research such terms to be sure you’re using them correctly.
Use gender neutral terms (they/them, people/person) if you are generalising or writing about someone you don’t know the gender of. It can be harmful to some if they are mis-gendered.
Be careful when generalising as this can marginalise people, for example, saying “all students are lazy” is hurtful to that group of people. However, writing about research into why young people are seen as “lazy” by older generations isn’t discriminatory and educates people on an issue students face.
Be aware of your use of language.