Caution: The Word “Effect” May “Affect” Your Writing

Illustration of a doodle on a game show, sweating as they decide whether to answer "affect" or "effect" to the question "This answer will ____ your entire life." The game show host is standing over them with a microphone saying "So. What'll it be?"

The English language (though beautiful) can be downright confusing sometimes, dear readers. That’s why, in a slight departure from our customary topic of health literacy, our editors have begged and pleaded with us to do a post about one of the most common mistakes we see in health communication: the dreaded “affect” vs. “effect” switch-a-roo. “Affect” … Continue reading

It’s a … stock photo site!

Illustration of the Picture Public Health logo (a multi-colored camera shutter with a + in the middle) being carried by a flying stork, as several people cheer from the ground.

If you’ve been with us for a while, dear readers, you’re probably aware of our stock photo woes. Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we’re no strangers to wading through hundreds of images that are generic, unsafe, or just plain weird — and we know other health communicators are facing the same challenges. That’s … Continue reading

We ❤ Keyboard Navigation

Illustration of pirate doodles sailing on a ship that's made out of a giant keyboard.

Accessibility is an issue that’s near and dear to our ❤s here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters. We’ve shared accessibility tips before, but today we wanted to steer your attention specifically to keyboard navigation. (Get it?!) Keyboard navigation is when users browse a website’s links and content using the tab and enter keys instead … Continue reading

Exceed Our Expectations — Skip “Exceed”

Illustration of a doodle locking the word "exceed" in a vault labeled "CAUTION: HEALTH JARGON" and saying "In ya go!" while another doodle looks on skeptically, saying "Isn't this a little excessive?"

This week, we’re adding to our catalog of “use simpler words” entries. Though many of the terms we address are health-specific, we also tackle overly complicated words that have worked their way into health content. This week’s word belongs to the second category, and we unequivocally recommend skipping it altogether. Can you spot the unapproachable non-health … Continue reading

Writing About Zika Virus

Illustration of a TV screen playing "The Daily Panic" with a newscaster saying "Top scienticians suggest: Do not EVER get pregnant. EVER! For serious you guys." with a caption reading "Zikaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!"

Since January, Zika virus has generated frenzied headlines, public health controversy, wild conspiracy theories, and a lot of anxiety — especially for women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. And as summer arrives in the United States (and backyards once again fill up with mosquitoes), public interest is bound to intensify.  Emerging health threats … Continue reading

Health Lit Live with Dr. Stacy Bailey and Dr. Gang Fang

Illustration of stick figure hosting the talk show "Health Lit Live!" with Dr. Stacy Bailey and Dr. Gang Fang as guests.

“Health Lit Live” is our series of interviews with the movers and shakers on the health literacy scene. This week, our imaginary illustrated host Doug Doodleman sits down with Stacy Bailey, PhD, MPH and Gang Fang, PharmD, PhD from the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They’re here to … Continue reading

You’re Not Alone: Writing About Sensitive Topics

Illustration of a doodle at a microphone, with a cat on their head, saying "Ahem...Hello. I'm here to talk about feline hat syndrome." as a group of other doodles with cats on their heads cheer, saying "We've got your back!" "You're the best!" and "Yay," with another holding a sign saying "Go you!"

Some health issues are really hard to talk about — and even harder to live with. As health writers, it’s part of our job to recognize when health topics require an especially empathetic and compassionate tone (think incontinence, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, or memory problems). Here are some of our tried-and-true tips for writing about … Continue reading

Don’t “Impair” Your Writing

Illustration of a doodle sinking into a pile of pears, saying "Help! I've been impaired!" as other doodles rush to the rescue.

Dear readers, it’s time to return to our unofficial “use simpler words” series. Today’s word is a card-carrying member of the just-plain-vague club: “impaired.” Most of the time, you can replace “impaired” with a specific description of what is actually impaired — and what that means for your reader. This will make your writing easier to … Continue reading

Health Literacy in a Multilingual World

Illustration of a doodle in a space suit, floating above the Earth, saying into a megaphone "People of Earth! Here's how to take your medicine..." with a "HL Live" satellite in the background.

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy headquarters, we’re big on knowing your audience and tailoring your content — and that’s especially important when you’re writing for readers with limited English proficiency (LEP). Of course, translating your materials is the most reliable way to make sure your readers will understand them. But sometimes, translation just isn’t feasible — … Continue reading