Using Clear Communication at NIOSHPosted on by
What is clear communication?
Clear communication means using familiar concepts, words, numbers, and images presented in ways that make sense to the people who need the information – your intended audience.
Why should I care about clear communication?
Whether you’re communicating health messages to employers or workers, every audience has its own level of health literacy (i.e., ability to understand and use health information). The clearer your message, the more likely your audience will understand and act on it.
How can I communicate clearly?
You can use best practices for plain language and design to enhance message clarity.
- Put the most important information first
- Break content into short sections, or chunks
- Use headings and sub-headings
- Use simple language, not jargon
- Define necessary technical terms
- Use active voice
- Include a call to action
- Choose visuals that are simple, instructive, and attractive to the intended audience
- Place visuals near related text
How is NIOSH using clear communication?
The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires all federal agencies to use plain language. At NIOSH, we are committed to using clear communication in all of our communication materials. We do this by using the CDC Clear Communication Index, a research-based tool that helps staff develop and assess communication materials for the public. More than 400 NIOSH employees have taken plain language and the CDC Clear Communication Index training, and that number continues to grow.We recently held a train-the-trainer session for the CDC Clear Communication Index to increase the number of training opportunities available for NIOSH staff. We also plan to offer training in plain language and the CDC Clear Communication Index to grantees in the near future.
Can I use the CDC Clear Communication Index?
Yes! The CDC Clear Communication Index is available to the public. All you need to know about the tool is available in the Clear Communication Index User Guide.
Is clear communication recognized?
Yes! In recent years, NIOSH has won several awards for its clear communication products. Earlier this month, the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety won an Award of Distinction in the 2017 ClearMark Awards, hosted by the Center for Plain Language. These prestigious awards recognize documents that meet a high standard for clarity and simplicity.
The award-winning Keep Workers Safe on the Road infographic uses plain language and design principles from the CDC Clear Communication Index. The infographic communicates the human and economic burden of work-related motor vehicle crashes, and the important role employers play in keeping workers safe on the road so they can return home safely at the end of each workday.
Share your work.
What are you doing to communicate clearly with your intended audience? Please let us know in the comment section below.
Sydney Webb, PhD, is a Health Communications Specialist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
Rebecca Olsavsky, MS, is a Health Communications Specialist in the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety.
Stephanie Pratt, PhD, is the Director of the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety.
Tanya Headley, MS, is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Office of the Director and the NIOSH Clear Communication Coordinator.