Five Ways to Improve Written Material That’s Sent to Families
“PROSE Checklist: Strategies for Improving School-to-Home Written Communication” by Sarah Nagro in Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 2015 (Vol. 47, #5, p. 256-263), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/1IVLcuz; Nagro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Effective communication enhances school-family partnerships,” says Sarah Nagro (Johns Hopkins University) in this article in Teaching Exceptional Children. She suggests the PROSE checklist for making written communication optimally effective:
- Use one consistent font.
- Keep the same font size throughout, ideally 12-point.
- Avoid all-caps or all-italics sentences.
- Don’t overdo highlighting or bold-face type – use them to draw attention, not decorate.
- Make the reading level fifth-grade, not higher than eighth-grade.
- Avoid multisyllabic words, sticking mostly to words of one or two syllables.
- Make most sentences 10-15 words, never more than 25.
- Break longer sentences into several shorter sentences.
- Limit prepositional phrases.
- Use a predictable left-to-right, top-to-bottom layout.
- Use headings to guide the reader and set the headings apart from running text.
- Separate diagrams from text (lists, tables, charts, graphs).
- Keep graphics simple – no more than 15 labels and 75 items.
- Label graphics so they’re self-explanatory.
- Ideally limit publications to one page, or break longer documents into sections.
- Use page numbers if there’s more than one page.
- Use white space to break up text and keep each page from being too dense.
- Use images and figures to support content, rather than for decoration.
Ease of reading:
- Write in the active voice.
- Limit pronouns to one per sentence so antecedents are clear.
- Avoid acronyms unless they’re widely known to families.
- Include real-world examples whenever possible.