Simplifying Text

Text difficulty is usually an issue of text and word length, complexity, and reader familiarity with content. Short excerpts of high-interest material, or student-generated text (familiar content) are useful materials for new readers.

Here are some tips for writing easy-to-read materials or adapting text so that it is accessible to new readers.

  • Be as direct, short and specific as possible. Use active verbs and concrete nouns. Avoid writing in the passive voice.

  • Use short sentences (8-10 words). Longer ones tend to contain multiple ideas.

  • Use visual cues - pictures, illustrations, and graphics that work in conjunction with words.

  • Start with the complete idea you want understood, then provide an explanation or give "how to" information.

  • Sequence information logically: step-by-step (1, 2, 3,); chronologically (a time line); or topically (using main topics and sub-topics).

  • Do lots of pre-reading preparation (mind-mapping, prediction, reader questions, etc.)

  • Use large print with lots of white space around it so that it's easy to distinguish words.

This material is adapted from: U.S. Department of Agriculture, (1988, February). Guidelines: Writing for adults with limited reading skills. Alexandria , VA : U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services.