Health Lit Lessons from Game of Thrones: Delete the Coffee Cup

Alt: A group of Game of Thrones doodles stand huddled around a set of instructions for slaying White Walkers. The instructions have placeholder text, outdated information, a missing image, and the useful information in the wrong spot. A note at the bottom reads, “This is wrong! -Ed.”

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may have followed the gripping drama of the takeout coffee cup that appeared in a recent episode of the fantasy TV series. And if one anachronistic beverage blunder wasn’t enough, a plastic water bottle made a cameo in the finale!

These kinds of bloopers are all fun and games in a TV show, but out-of-place content in health materials can have real-world consequences. So today we’re sharing tips to keep sneaky unwanted elements out of your health communication products.

Watch out for these common content interlopers:

  • Imposters. You may not be in danger of leaving your morning coffee in your poster copy, but what about leaving in placeholder text? Always clearly mark your placeholders, so you don’t risk publishing imposters instead of real content.
  • Time travelers. Game of Thrones encountered drink containers from the future, but in health content you’re more likely to run into relics from the past. Outdated stats and figures are easy enough to catch. But keep a special eye out for outdated terminology — especially language describing groups of people. Stay informed about preferred terms for different demographics, and update any language that’s past its prime.
  • Trespassers. Identifying bad content is one thing — but what about good content that’s in the wrong place? Content can trespass by addressing the wrong audience, veering off topic, or failing to fit the format. It’s your job to relocate these trespassers to materials where they’ll feel more at home.
  • Space oddities. When lots of different people touch content, absurdities can sneak in along the way. It’s a bit like a game of telephone: writers, editors, designers, developers, and subject matter experts pass content back and forth, and eventually something gets lost (or garbled) in translation. Always make time to reread the final product with fresh eyes to catch things that just don’t belong.

The bottom line: Keep an eye out for interlopers in your health materials — and banish out-of-place content (coffee cups included).

Tweet about it: What does the #GameOfThrones coffee cup have to do with #HealthLit? @CommunicateHlth shares tips for catching unwanted elements in health content:


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