Five Ways to Improve Written Materials that's Sent to Families

Five Ways to Improve Written Materials that's Sent to Families
Posted on 05/27/2015

Five Ways to Improve Written Material That’s Sent to Families

“PROSE Checklist: Strategies for Improving School-to-Home Written Communication” by Sarah Nagro in Teaching Exceptional Children, May/June 2015 (Vol. 47, #5, p. 256-263), available for purchase at; Nagro can be reached at

            “Effective communication enhances school-family partnerships,” says Sarah Nagro (Johns Hopkins University) in this article in Teaching Exceptional Children. She suggests the PROSE checklist for making written communication optimally effective:


-   Use one consistent font.

-   Keep the same font size throughout, ideally 12-point.

-   Avoid all-caps or all-italics sentences.

-   Don’t overdo highlighting or bold-face type – use them to draw attention, not decorate.


-   Make the reading level fifth-grade, not higher than eighth-grade.

-   Avoid multisyllabic words, sticking mostly to words of one or two syllables.

-   Make most sentences 10-15 words, never more than 25.

-   Break longer sentences into several shorter sentences.

-   Limit prepositional phrases.


-   Use a predictable left-to-right, top-to-bottom layout.

-   Use headings to guide the reader and set the headings apart from running text.

-   Separate diagrams from text (lists, tables, charts, graphs).

-   Keep graphics simple – no more than 15 labels and 75 items.

-   Label graphics so they’re self-explanatory.


-   Ideally limit publications to one page, or break longer documents into sections.

-   Use page numbers if there’s more than one page.

-   Use white space to break up text and keep each page from being too dense.

-   Use images and figures to support content, rather than for decoration.

Ease of reading:

-   Write in the active voice.

-   Limit pronouns to one per sentence so antecedents are clear.

-   Avoid acronyms unless they’re widely known to families.

-   Include real-world examples whenever possible.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2017 West Corporation. All rights reserved.