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
Who is Your Audience?
- Consider who your audience is - who are you trying to
- 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
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
- 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?
- 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
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
- Allow extra time over Bank Holidays.
How do I present the material needed in an alternative
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
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
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
- Use a good average sentence length (between 15 and 20
- 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
- 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
How do you intend to get the information to your target
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.
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
- You must include the following statement on all information
provided by you, with your contact 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
- 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
When you produce information in a range of alternative formats it
- Equivalent quality to standard print.
- Same price as the standard print.
- Available at the same time as standard print.