I’m a Main Message in a Bottle…

Alt: A starry-eyed doodle gasps and asks, “Am...am I the main message?!” In the background, a second doodle shrugs and says, “How ‘bout you read the post and find out!”

The main message of any communication material is the one thing you most want your readers to remember. So how do you keep them from whizzing right by that important information?

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves that we use to emphasize a main message. And today, dear readers, we’re sharing them with you!

  • Put it first. Never make people hunt for the main event! Instead, structure your content so the main message comes first. Many people only read the first few words or sentences before deciding if they’re going to keep going. So help your readers get the most important information even if they don’t read all of your content. And by telling people the main point right away, you may even get them to keep reading.
  • Use visual cues to draw readers to it. You can help emphasize the main message with things like bold text, a larger font, or a call-out box. These visual cues say, “Hey! Look over here! This is important!” Just make sure that any images you use are accessible to all your readers—for example, by using alt text.
  • Use visuals that support it. This sounds similar to the second tip, but it’s actually not the same. A visual that supports the main message helps drive the message home—as opposed to simply calling attention to it. This could be something like a photo of someone doing a recommended behavior or an infographic that communicates why the main message is so important.

Let’s play out these tips with a quick example. Imagine you’re writing a fact sheet about breast cancer screening.

You put your main message—“If you’re age 50 to 74, get screened for breast cancer every 2 years”—at the very top of the material, emphasized with bold text and placed in a shaded box. Then you add an image of a woman in that age range getting ready to have a mammogram. The photo complements the emphasized main message, and you are winning at the main message game.

The bottom line: Emphasize your main message by putting it first, using visual cues to draw readers to it, and supporting it with images.

Tweet about it: #HealthLit nerds don’t let other #HealthLit nerds let readers miss the main message! Check out @CommunicateHlth’s tips: https://bit.ly/2ulRwZz