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PDF Content - From the User's Perspective

Silhouette of lighthouse with light on indicating shining a light to clarify a subject

The key is to design from the user's viewpoint and action steps.

Organize the PDF material into action steps for the user to obtain what they need.

Do not collect information not directly associated with the current task.

Use navigational headings followed by informational paragraphs to communicate rather than creating a list or table spanning multiple pages.

Plain Language

Organize information and field entry from the user's action step perspective using sections.

Use short sentences.

Define acronyms on first use.

Do not misuse lists by making all information into one long list.

Do not misuse tables by making all information into a layout table.

Plain Language and Writing Technique Resources

The official U.S. government site,

Helpful Techniques

The most helpful approach is to use structure for clarity.

Navigational Headings

Use headings followed by text explaining why the user would complete the following form fields. Do not use a narr5ative style or letter style. Instead, provide the reason why both as a section heading and as instructional text before the form fields. However, if you do use narrative or letter-style format, allow at least one line of space between each field and any text.

Informative Field Captions

Provide a unique, informative caption for each field. Place the caption above the form field itself and in close proximity. Do not construct fields without captions.

Field Value Size

Make the form field value area large enough for all users to interact with it (including check boxes). For fields with top captions, the height size minimum is 0.4250. For main check boxes, use 14 point and for subsections of check boxes under a main check box, use 12 point size.

Alt Text

Provide informative field alternative text when a check box is the first in a group and for all text fields. Enumerate associated groups of check boxes (usually mutually exclusive but can be inclusive) with the number and total, such as 1 of 3; 2 of 3; 3 of 3. Be sure to indicate the selection option, such as Select one or Select as many as apply or Select three of twenty.

Tab Order

Ensure form fields are in the correct tab order using Acrobat tools and using the tab key.

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