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The language of health

Pee and poo and the language of health

While researching content design recently, I came across this article from the NHS Digital blog. As a writer, it’s not surprising that I’m absolutely in love with words and regularly delighted by them, but I was even more delighted to be reading about how the NHS uses words.

In the UK, we’ve been relying on the brilliance of our national health service since it was set up (by Welsh kin, might I add) in 1948, and we’re relying on it especially so now, during the global pandemic. On top of all of that, here they are helping us improve our website copy.

If it’s poo and your audience calls it poo, call it poo

The article is about developing an intuitive (and straightforward) way to communicate information, based on findings from user research. This is particularly important when related to healthcare because time cannot be wasted by dazzling your reader with fancy words or frightening them off with technical terminology.

Even if your website doesn’t have the same potential of life or death consequences, clear communication is important for your site too.

Readability and SEO benefits

Accessibility should be high on your priority list and using simple language is part of this. It ensures people with dyslexia, learning disabilities and a wide range of literacy levels can use your website and understand your content.

Readability also affects your search rankings, so you need to make sure your web copy is easy to understand if you want to improve SEO. You can quote this business benefit if you need to persuade others to start considering accessibility or readability (sigh).

Start communicating clearly

The most important takeaway is to be clear and direct with your readers, choosing words that will be widely understood by them. As well as being a pleasant read, your inner child might find it funny to follow the debates and discussions around calling pee and poo, pee and poo.

The piece ends with an acknowledgement that some people won’t like your choices, even though you’ve taken time to research, test and consider them thoroughly. The most important thing is that more people will be able to understand the words on your website, and that makes it all worth it.

For support with your efforts to communicate more clearly, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.

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