Creating Materials

updated July 5, 2024

Core Components

Formative Evaluation

Additional Resources for Creating Materials

Core Components:  Assessment tools such as the SAM or the CDC Health Literacy Index, were developed to rate the accessibility of information. However, these tools also provide guidance for the  development of materials as do many readily available guidelines. In general, experts suggest that it is important to address the following key components:

  • Plain Language: vocabulary, sentence length, active voice
  • Organization: presentation of ideas, grouping of like ideas, highlights of key points, summaries, and, in general, attention to what people want to know as well as what professionals think they ought to know
  • Layout and design: white space, font style and size, bolded headings and sections, use of charts, graphs and illustrations

Below, we draw from  various guides and offer key points about plain language, layout and design and formative evaluation to guide you in creating health education materials.  We refer you to the resources linked at the end of this page for more detailed guidelines and and illustrative examples.


Plain language is defined as simple, clear, conversational style and one  that presents information in a logical order.  Recommendations for plain language writing often include the following:


  • Provide needed background information or needed context
  • Group information into meaningful sections with clear headings
  • Emphasize and summarize main points    


  • Use everyday words
  • Explain technical terms and use examples
  • Avoid long, complex sentences
  • Write in the active voice
  • Engage the reader. Suggestions include: making reference to a shared context, using a question and answer format
  • Link information to trusted sources


The design of materials can ease or hinder reading.  Recommendations often include the following:

Type and Spacing

  • Use a readable type style – generally a footed font [serif] in 12 point size
  • Use appropriate space between lines [generally 1.2 to 1.5 spacing]
  • Provide good contrast between the paper and the text
  • Do not print words on shaded or patterned background
  • Use upper and lower case
  • Avoid all cap text
  • Include ample white space

Text Lines

  • Use appropriate length lines [maximum of five inches]
  • Leave right margin jagged
  • Do not split words across two lines

Overall Design

  • Be consistent
  • Avoid clutter
  • Provide guide for finding key information
  • Clearly label all illustrations and charts
  • Offer explanations
  • Make legends clear
  • Place charts as close as possible to explanatory text
  • Avoid wrapping text around illustrations
  • Use consistent and easily recognized headings
  • Signal main points with bold or highlights

Formative Evaluation:  Health information designed for the public should be as rigorously developed and assessed as is any scientific ‘product’.  Recommendations for the development of appropriate materials include processes for review, piloting, and revisions.

  • Review all materials and use a consistent check list
  • Engage members of the intended audience in development as well as in a critical review process
  • Re-work the materials based on reviews
  • Rigorously Pilot materials with members of the intended audience
  • Re-work materials based on pilot test findings and solicited suggestions

NOTE: Members of the intended audience can offer insight and guidance long before materials are developed and piloted. Participatory processes – engaging members of the intended audience in the content, development, and design of materials brings tremendous value by incorporating voice, language, culture, perspective, and needs.



Additional Resources for Creating Materials

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