Editing: how to make your book more accessible to people with reading difficulties

This article is about editing and producing publications in a way that makes them more accessible to people who have reading difficulties caused by dyslexia, limited literacy, or other conditions or disabilities that make it hard for them to read, concentrate or process information. *

This article will be of interest to editors and self-publishing businesses like mine.

Note: this article is not about how to  edit and design books for people who are visually impaired, as I do not have any knowledge of that aspect. 

When you make your book more accessible, who benefits?

  1. People who have limited literacy skills, including people for whom English is not their first language and people who have had limited education
  2. People who find reading difficult due to intellectual difficulties, dyslexia, or mental illnesses that make it difficult for them to concentrate or process information
  3. You, because you are making your book accessible to a wider audience, i.e. more readers, which will translate into more sales.

Does your target audience include people with reading difficulties?

  1. When publishing a book, you need to think about your ‘target audience’.  Who do you want to read your book? Who will be interested? Then you need to produce your book in a way that meets the needs of your target audience
  2. If the way your book is edited and designed prevents people with reading difficulties from reading it, you are immediately limiting your audience
  3. You can make your ebook or printed book accessible to people who have difficulty reading, by presenting your publication as described below.

How to edit your book so it is more accessible to people with reading difficulties

Editing: use short sentences

  • Short sentences are easier for people with reading difficulties to read. They are also easier for everyone to read
  • Edit the text to ensure there are no long, drawn-out sentences and that each sentences is about one thing.

Editing: use short paragraphs

  1. Short paragraphs are easier for everyone to read online.
  2. Short paragraphs – each about just one specific topic – are easier for people with mild disabilities or limited literacy to read either online or in a hardcopy book.
  3. If your book contains long paragraphs, break them up into shorter paragraphs of just two or three sentences, to make your book more accessible.

Editing: images, diagrams, illustrations

The more visual the explanation of a concept, instruction or story, the easier it is to understand.

People with reading difficulties often find it easier to read and understand the text if the text is supported, or even replaced, by:

  1. images or diagrams that tell the story, to support the text
  2. images or diagrams that illustrate what the text is about
  3. images or diagrams that tell the story, used instead of text
  4. graphs that are visual (e.g. pie charts), rather than text or numbers-based.

How to design your book so it is accessible to people with reading difficulties

Go to: Graphic designers: how to design your book so it is accessible to people with reading difficulties. 

For more detailed information about how to edit and design publications that are accessible, go to:

Download the Centre for Applied Disability Research publication (PDF) at: Accessible written information practice guide.

Image: Copyright SW Kane.




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