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Before You Start - Helpful Hints

When you are planning to produce any information for the public, you should always spend some time thinking about the questions below. This will help you to make sure that information you produce is for the right audience.

The Golden Rule

Always ask the person concerned. Never assume that you know best.

Who is Your Audience?

  • Consider who your audience is - who are you trying to reach?
  • List the different groups such as young or elderly, people with disability, people whose first language is not English etc
  • Getting better at giving information means getting better acquainted with your audience - think about their specific need.

Do the audience and/or groups have any special needs?

  • Find out, as early as possible, what information they would like produced in which format.
    It takes time to arrange different formats - plan ahead
  • How many copies will be required?
  • You may need to produce the information in several formats.
  • All formats, including your standard print version, should be made available and displayed at the same time.

What do you want to achieve with this information?

Are you:
  • Keeping people informed.
  • Increasing access and take-up of services.
  • Publishing new initiatives.
  • Raising the profile of the Council.
  • Increasing consultation and community involvement.
  • Celebrating achievements?

What does the audience need to know?

  • Tell people what they need to know to understand the information and access the service.
  • Do not give too much information.
  • Stagger information and provide it at different stages.

How to decide what information must be produced in an alternative format?
Some information should be available from the outset in different formats to standard print, e.g. information for mass distribution or aimed at older people. Other information should be available in different formats when a customer requests it.

Have you allocated a budget for the alternative formats? Ensure that a budget is available to pay for different formats. Please note that some formats can be produced immediately and at virtually no cost, e.g. clear print. Producing information in different formats is often cheaper than people think.

When do I timetable the production of information in different formats? Making information accessible means ensuring that you have timetables for all formats to be available at the same time, unless it is upon request.

  • Always have it in mind that other formats, besides written text, may be necessary.
  • Commission work as soon as it is practical to do so.
  • Allow for postal time, etc.
  • Some contacts will not be available during the summer holidays.
  • Allow extra time over Bank Holidays.

How do I present the material needed in an alternative format?
This again addresses which format to produce your information in and ensuring that it is clearly presented, i.e. typeface used (clearest font is Arial) and not justifying text to the right so that it is easier to follow (text in this directory is all justified to the left).

Are you using Plain English?

Using jargon, over-elaborate phrases and words that require specialist knowledge to be understood is a major barrier to good communication with communities.

If you set your information out clearly, then a reader will have a good understanding of the document the first time they read it.

A national Plain English Campaign operates in the UK, and all local authorities have either formal or informal commitments to keeping language simple and effective.

More information about the Plain English Campaign, and a handy A-Z guide of alternative words and phrases, can be found at

The same website provides information about the campaign's paid-for services that include checking individual documents and using the Crystal Mark logo on approved publications, and costs for its services.

The Communications Unit at Worcestershire County Council offers advice and help to people keen to use Plain English, Contact the Unit on: 01905 766642. Points on using Plain English

Do's :
  • Use a good average sentence length (between 15 and 20 words).
  • Use everyday words.
  • Keep the language clear.
  • Use the same word or phrase for the same thing all the way through your document.
  • Give your information in a logical order.
  • Use headings that tell your reader what is next.
  • Split your information into short, easily understood paragraphs or sections.
  • Give examples wherever you can.
  • Be personal and polite.
  • For emphasis use lower case bold text instead of capitals.
  • Artificially shorten words and phrases i.e. date of birth as opposed to DOB. Only use abbreviations if they are explained.
  • Use padding.
  • Use jargon.
  • Be vague.
  • Be negative.
  • Underline text.
  • Use italics or block capitals.
  • Information is only accessible if it reaches the right readers

How do you intend to get the information to your target audience?

The availability of information in accessible formats should be promoted widely. Each directorate should keep a list of documents that are available in alternative formats. Also, let the Corporate Diversity Manager know.
  • You must include the following statement on all information provided by you, with your contact details:
This document can be made available in other languages (including British Sign Language) and alternative formats (large print, audio tape, computer disk and Braille) on request from (insert your details).
  • Promote that you have produced information in different formats, so that people know it is available in different formats, e.g. if information is available on an audio tape let the local societies for the blind know, or if available in a different language, forward the information to the appropriate community group, e.g. in Bengali to the local Bangladeshi Community Group.
  • If you are asked to produce information in an alternative format then inform the customer of when it will be available.
  • Always keep the customer informed.
  • You may find it useful to use our "What Day Is It Today?" calendar to help you target certain festivals in the year at which you could best promote alternative format information.

Some people may require information to be presented in more than one format, i.e. large print in Bengali or Easy English on Audio Tape.

When you produce information in a range of alternative formats it should be:
  • Equivalent quality to standard print.
  • Same price as the standard print.
  • Available at the same time as standard print.

Further Information

In this section

More Information

See also in our website

External websites

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
    Works to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.
  • Plain English
    A website of an organisation who have been fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979.
  • Worcestershire Racial Equality Council (WREC)
    The WREC assists people who believe they have been discriminated against, or who experience difficulty in using mainstream services because of language and cultural differences.
  • BBC Interfaith Calendar
    Interfaith holy days and festivals Calendar.

We are not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more

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This page was last reviewed 29 May 2013 at 15:01.
The page is next due for review 25 November 2014.