Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective

On October 20, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective. The Toolkit is an 11-part health literacy resource whose purpose is to help people create written material in printed formats that are easier for people to read, understand, and use. Originally released in 1999 under the title Writing and Designing Print Materials for Beneficiaries: A Guide for State Medicaid Agencies, this updated and expanded version describes how to develop effective outreach products for all CMS populations. While the guidelines and advice offered in the Toolkit are geared to the needs of CMS audiences, most of them reflect general principles for effective communication of information that can be applied to any audience.

The Toolkit includes detailed guidelines for writing, graphic design, and culturally appropriate translation from English into other languages. It includes a book-length guide to methods of testing written material with readers, and covers special topics in writing and design. These special topics include cautions about using readability formulas to assess material, things to know if your material is for older adults, a comparison of written material on websites versus written material in printed formats, and an extended “before and after” example of using the Toolkit guidelines to revise a brochure.

The Toolkit is available on the CMS website as a sequence of downloads which you may view, save, or print from your personal computer.

The direct link to the Toolkit is
You may also find it at under Outreach & Education.


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