General editorial recommendations

Introduction

This section proposes general recommendations to ensure your contents are accessible whatever the medium used (email, Web, Word, etc.).

Check colours

  • Make sure colour is not the only means used to convey information.
  • Make sure there is sufficient contrast between the text colour and the background.

The contrast can be checked with Colour Contrast Analyzer :

  • 4.5:1 for normal size text.
  • 3:1 for big text.

Facilitate reading

  • Align text to the left, don’t justify it.
  • Use an easily-readable font family with a minimum size of 12 pixels.
  • Use simple punctuation.
  • Avoid italics, completely capitalised sentences; but always put a capital at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Avoid textured backgrounds (images).
  • Do not do too many repeated carriage returns or tabs to space contents (rather, use “Paragraph > Spacing” or “Indent” in Word for instance).
  • Avoid layout and data tables.
  • Avoid information-conveying content in images (graphs, schemas, diagrams,…)
  • Signal the end of the document (for instance, an image saying “End of email”, or a white-on-white text “End of document”).
  • Use simple, clear and short phrase turns: subject, verb, complement. One idea per sentence, with simple words.
  • Explain complicated words.
  • Use the present tense, preferably direct style, and active form (no subjunctive, no conjunctions).
  • Use proper typographic characters: dash -, em-dash —, “rounded quotes”.
  • Avoid foreign words, abbreviations except those that are genuinely used.

Provide accessible layout tables

Simplify tables, even if we know that email clients (including Outlook) still often demand to use tables for layout.

Checkpoints:

  • In general, don’t do complex table layouts (merging cells, multicolumn,…).
  • Avoid embedding layout tables (maximum two levels of embedding), but also:
  • Don’t merge table cells, but use several simpler tables.
  • Don’t keep empty cells.
  • Don’t add background images.
  • Make sure that the sequential order is correct (one can read left to right and top to bottom).
  • Avoid complex data tables, graphs or schemas.