Toastmasters UK North & Ireland

Checklist: Writing for readibility

What does this mean?

As Toastmasters, we want to make sure that all of our communications are clear, meaningful and understandable by the audience. This applies to our written communication as well as our speeches.  Written communications can include emails, newsletters, club advertisements and social media posts.

Writing for readability means thinking about both the content of the message and the design (layout). Make it easy for people to understand and consider people that have difficulty with written communication, such as those with dyslexia.

About this checklist

Use this checklist when creating and checking your written communications. It will help you to make your messages clear.

The checklist is based on the British Dyslexia Association Style Guide, the Toastmasters International Brand manual and input from Toastmasters members.


The checklist


Be concise
Avoid long, dense paragraphs. Use short sentences where possible. Consider bullet points and short lists instead of long prose
Use the active voice
Example: "Anna gave a speech" is better than "A speech was given by Anna"
Use simple language
Avoid jargon and always give definitions of abbreviations. For example, "Maria is a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster)"

Fonts and layout

Use a Sans Serif font
Use Myriad Pro, Source Sans 3, Arial or Calibri
Fonts with serifs such as Times New Roman are more difficult to read. Avoid script (handwriting) fonts
Use headings for structure and clarity
Use Gotham or Montserrat font
For headings, use a font size that is at least 20% larger than the normal text. If further emphasis is required, then use bold
Use 12-14 point font size (or larger)
Small text is difficult to read
Use upper case and lower case
Write in "Sentence case", with a mixture of upper (capital) and lower case letters. Text that is in ALL CAPS is very difficult to read. This applies to #Hastags too, use #ToastmastersMyWhy instead of #toastmastersmywhy
Use bold for emphasis
If you need emphasis in your text, use bold. Underlines and italics can make the text appear to run together and cause crowding

Colour and design

Use dark text on a light background
Ensure a high level of contrast between your text and the background. Use single colour backgrounds (no patterns). Some people find white backgrounds too dazzling
Avoid clutter
When using images, make sure there is plenty of space between the image and the text. Avoid distracting surrounds
Describe images
If you are publishing information on a website, make sure you use "Alt Text" to describe the image. This allows people that use screen readers or assistive technology to understand what the image is for. Avoid including text within the image file
Avoid green and pink/red text
These colours are difficult for people with colour deficiencies (colour blindness)