Does the material always use words the primary audience uses?


The CDC Style Guide Says…

Replace jargon words with their plain language alternatives. For example:

in the event of

Choose the most common or frequently used words or terms for the primary audience, that is, words they use every day. When you use the language the audience uses, they will more easily and quickly process information in the material. Be careful, though, not to use slang, colloquial, metaphorical or offensive language that confuses or upsets the audience or violates their expectations of you as an information source. Pilot testing the material can tell you if you have used the language that will resonate with the primary audience.

When you need to use an unfamiliar term, explain it where you use it – in the same sentence or immediately after.

Some acronyms and abbreviations may be familiar to the primary audience, and others may not. Pilot testing the material with the audience will tell you which acronyms and abbreviations make sense to them. The general rule is to use acronyms and abbreviations sparingly, and when you do use them, spell them out and explain what they refer to. If people don’t need to know the full word or phrase, use alternative phrasing.

Example 1:

Color Me Safe is a coloring book for children ages 4 to 7. In the book, the Safe Family takes simple steps to prevent injuries, like using child safety seats and wearing helmets when riding bikes. Coloring the pictures and reading about the Safe Family is a fun way to learn about safety with your child.

Example 2:

The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get regular Pap tests. A Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) is a screening test for cervical cancer. It’s done in a doctor’s office or clinic. While you lie on the exam table, the doctor or nurse will put a medical tool (called a speculum) into your vagina, opening it to see your cervix. The cervix connects the uterus (or womb) to the vagina.

Example 3:

Choose a bug spray with DEET (a common ingredient that protects against tick bites).

Example 4:

Physical activity can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Page last reviewed: August 7, 2019