Thursday, August 11, 2016

Health materials: Blood pressure & "feet flat"

See how people responded to the words - put your feet flat on the floor.
How do you interpret the words "rest your feet flat on the floor?"

Wow! As writers, we put words on paper. If we want to understand the impact of our words on our intended audience, however, we’ve got to listen to their interpretations and watch their responses.

This month, as part of our health materials project, we read through a set of blood pressure instructions. (See New Health Project for details.) The instructions were meant to inform us on how to take our blood pressures at home. So, words like vital, accurate, wrinkles, and non-dominant were predictable discussion stoppers.

Expressions like “rest both feet flat on the floor” seemed simple and obvious, until we asked everyone to put their feet flat on the floor. When we checked under the table, more than half of the people’s feet were positioned with heels touching the floor and toes pointing in the air.

Another phrase that generated many interpretations was “don’t take your blood pressure within a half hour of eating.” And, the phrase “back supported” was popularly interpreted as either lying in bed or stretched out in a chair.

These discussions reiterate the importance of never assuming that just because we understand what we write that our audience will make the same interpretations.

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