We Need to Talk about PLS…Exploring the Opportunities of Plain-Language Summaries

The May 2019 issue of the MAP (ISMPP newsletter) contains a nice article on the role of plain language summaries in patient engagement.

The following tips are provided for the development of lay summaries:

  • Use short sentences and short words – avoid complex grammatical structures
  • Avoid jargon, but use technical words when needed
  • Use accessible, conversational language and the active voice
  • Filter out unnecessary detail and start with the take-home message
  • Bring content to life with analogies and examples
  • Use tools in Word (Flesch reading ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade level) to assess readability of text
  • Format – use left aligned rather than justified text, use bold for key points, use headers, use bullets sparingly, add visuals where possible, and use graphs and figures with consideration
  • Consider involving patients in writing or reviewing the PLS to ensure they are appropriate for the audience

What do the authors conclude?

“PLS have a central role to play in opening up the latest scientific research to wider audiences. They may even prove a useful tool in moderating media inflation of research findings and the battle against fake news. Isn’t it time for patients to be fully embraced as an equal audience and partner in communicating medical research? And shouldn’t the healthcare community stop looking for reasons not to move ahead with PLS?”