Guidebook tutors staff authors

Step-by-step instructions create clear copy

To help staff create well-written patient handouts, members of the Patient Education Clearinghouse Committee at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics in Salt Lake City created guidelines for handout authors. The 26-page book offers resources for information gathering, a sample document for writers to follow, copyright information, tips on clear writing, a readability test, and a patient pretesting survey.

To help staff write clear copy, a two-page substitute word list also is included. For example, the list suggests authors use the word "shortage" instead of "deficit," and "cut" rather than "incision." A checklist at the back of the book helps writers evaluate materials before they are submitted. The assessment includes the following criteria:

• Amount of information delivered is appropriate.

• Language level is appropriate for intended audience.

• The document maintains interest and attention.

• Text is clearly legible.

• Paragraphs are short.

• Main points stand out clearly.

• Illustrations are easy to understand.

"An Author’s Guide has been used exclusively when we do inservices," says Jackie A. Smith, PhD, patient education coordinator at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. "It is a stand-alone product and easy to teach from. The book allows each area to become experts at developing their own materials, with my office and the Patient Education Clearinghouse Committee serving as resource people."

Although the book is institution-specific, Smith will share the book with others outside her system for a $10 fee to cover printing and mailing costs. The book is accessible on the medical center’s home page at


For more information on An Author’s Guide or to order the book, contact:

Jackie A. Smith, PhD, Patient Education Coordinator, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, 50 North Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84132. Telephone: (801) 581-4804. Fax: (801) 585-5280. E-mail: