PRISM creates guide for improving IC readability

For instance, you should write in first-person

The PRISM—Project to Review and Improve Study Materials—has developed a quick reference guide for improving readability in informed consent and other research documents.

Here are some sample instructions from the reference guide:

  • Check the reading level: Choose a readability formula, but be aware that they all have limitations—getting a "good score" is not a guarantee that your document is easy to read.
  • Use active voice: The subject of your sentence should act, instead of being acted upon. "We will ask you questions about your health" is active, while "You will be asked questions about your health" is passive.
  • Write in first-person: Use pronouns, such as "I," "we," and "you." This encourages the use of active voice and will be clearer and more engaging to the reader.
  • Keep sentences short and to the point: Break up sentences joined with conjunctions or semicolons. It's okay to begin a complete sentence with "And" or "But." Try to vary sentence length. Sentences should average 15 words or less.
  • Limit paragraphs to one main idea: Start with a clear and concise topic sentence. Remove or relocate details that do not relate to the central topic. A paragraph of 1 or 2 sentences is okay.
  • Organize and format your document so that key information is clear and easy to find: Lead with the most important information, and sequence information in a logical fashion that the audience can easily follow. Use bold, larger font, bullets, or graphics to emphasize critical information. Do not us justified margins or put entire sentences in all caps or italics. Also, put longer lists of items into bulleted lists whenever practical. Use numerical lists whenever the items need to be understood or completed in order.
  • Read your document aloud: This is one of the best ways to find errors and test for overall flow and clarity when you proofread. It can also help you troubleshoot—when you get stuck, try just speaking your thoughts.
  • Ask others to read and edit the document: Someone unfamiliar to the project is more likely to notice text that is unclear. The person who will use the document most—such as the person who will administer informed consent—should always have a chance to review it.
  • • Double-check names and contact information: Call all phone numbers and check all links and email addresses. Confirm that all names have been spelled correctly and that all titles are correct.

A pdf of the PRISM toolkit is available at