Writing Clearly for Coronavirus

Writing Clearly for COVID-19

We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and communication is vitally important. The challenge: communication takes planning, yet for most of us, we never planned for a pandemic! We’re scrambling to say the right thing, and we’re struggling to share information that is up-to-date, accurate, clear, and actionable.

How do you write clearly and help your audience understand the dangers of the pandemic? Start with clear, readable, understandable writing.

How to Write Clearly

Clear content is readable and understandable. Neither of these concepts require guesswork: both can be measured. First, readability. Readability is the ease with which a reader can take in text or information. If your content isn’t readable, nothing else matters. We can make content readable by:

  • Using proper grammar and punctuation
  • Adding headers to improve SEO and make content easy to skim
  • Bolding the 2-3 most important phrases on a page
  • Including bullet points or numbers to call attention to lists
  • Remove “jargon” and explain terms that are only used within your industry
  • Choose an appropriate content type: some information is most easily understood with diagrams or infographics, where other information is more suited to a video or text
  • Testing design fonts and sizes; certain combinations of font and size make text difficult to see

Tools like help measure readability by grade level. Readable content typically scores at between 5th and 7th grade.

Beyond legibility, content needs to be understood. If it doesn’t make sense to the person reading it, it’s not working. Since different audiences will have different levels of health literacy, the writer needs to consider who the audience is, as well as the appropriate way to share the information. Here are some questions to help consider the audience:

  • What is the goal of this content?
  • Who are we talking to?
  • Is the content directed toward a particular audience segment?
  • What does that audience value?

Where readability can be measured quantitatively, understanding must be measured qualitatively. Usability testing is your friend!


For more advice on writing clearly - specifically about Covid-19 - check out some of these great resources:

Let’s work together to create readable and understandable content. Only then can we help people to take action and protect themselves.

Connect with Marli Mesibov, VP Content Strategy at Mad*Pow and learn how we can help your organization create readable & understandable content.

Contributed by
Marli Mesibov
Job Title
VP, Content Strategy