Sense Making Optimisation

Sense Making Optimisation maximises (optimises) understanding (making sense), for all audiences, in ten stages. Sense Making Optimisation (SMO) is strategic, holistic and evidence based, maximising your reach and effectiveness.

SMO provides a framework for communication planning, delivery and evaluation, for audiences with high, average and low literacy (everyone!). SMO includes people with sensory, memory, communication and learning disabilities.

SMO is suitable for printed, digital, visual and auditory media, including reports, letters, leaflets, web pages, videos, surveys and marketing materials, and more. Most SMO stages and techniques are also applicable to dialogue and social media.

SMO incorporates Easier English to update and expand traditional writing techniques, such as Plain English and Easy Read. 

Easier English

Easier English makes language easier to read, understand and retain. The writing and adaptation techniques in Easier English draw on contemporary research and experience in reading, linguistics and disability. Rather than a traditional ‘one style fits all’ approach, Easier English is responsive to audience need. SMO and Easier English can be applied to other languages, although specific techniques may vary according to language structure.

Guide to Sense Making Optimisation

Ensure your information is what your audience wants and needs to know.
Communications must be interesting and relevant, to be engaging and memorable.

Concepts (Easier English)
Use familiar words and concepts.
Glossaries are most suitable for medium-high literacy readers. For other audience groups, avoid multiple word definitions, and adapt at other levels to support understanding.

Sentences (Easier English)
Reduce the complexity of your sentence structure. Reducing complexity automatically decreases sentence length. (Simply shortening sentences does not always reduce complexity, and can increase difficulty in other ways.)

Cohesion (Easier English)
Different audiences need different types and amounts of cohesive ties, to connect ideas. Ties particularly support understanding for recipients who have little topic knowledge, medium to low literacy, visual impairment, and difficulties understanding and remembering language.
Images should also be cohesive, to support understanding.

Text structure and design (Easier English)
Organise your information sequentially and logically. Ensure text structure and information hierarchy are appropriate for your audience’s literacy and language needs.
Use textual features that are already familiar to your audience.

The type, number and purpose of images are guided by your audience’s needs, and your communication goals.
On web pages, use alternative text to describe the purpose of images.

Document and graphic design
Choose design features, eg. layout, colour and font, which are familiar and accessible to your intended audience.

Sensory and symbolic systems
Choose sensory and symbolic systems which match your audience’s needs, eg. BSL (visual), spoken word (auditory), Braille (tactile).

Formats and media channels
How your communication is presented and stored should meet your audience’s language, cognitive, physical and sensory needs. Channels can combine more than one sensory and symbolic system, to support access and understanding.

Can your audience find your communications where and when they need it? Are your communications appropriate, and accessible in context?
Identify and, where possible, manage external factors which affect how your audience finds, interprets and uses your communications.

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date with the latest news from Inklecomms on accessible information, industry leading techniques and how best to communicate with your wider audience in the most effective way. 

Department of Work and Pensions

Inklecomms was asked by the DWP to provide advice and adaptations to ensure letters to claimants regarding Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseekers’ Allowance, were easier to understand.

Claimant representatives were engaged in content creation and feedback.

Working with users and other stakeholders, Inklecomms improved the content, flow, relevance and clarity of standard letters, using Easier English.

Inklecomms also provided an accessibility audit for a proposed Easy Read leaflet. The audit included analysis and recommendations on intended audience and writing style, including text structure, expository features, language and illustrations.

This work contributed to a review of information products, following recommendations by the independent Work Capability Assessment and Oakley reviews.

Northern Neurological Alliance

A questionnaire to measure outcomes, for people with acquired neurological conditions, was adapted using Easier English. Adaptations aimed to improve ease of use and validity of responses.

Advice was provided on further, staged simplifications of the questionnaire, so that it could be adapted to meet the needs of people with progressive conditions.

VisitEngland and VisitScotland

Inklecomms provided language consultation for VisitEngland and VisitScotland’s new Accessibility Guides website, enabling tourism operators to produce accessibility guides for visitors with disabilities.

The main focus of the work was to construct questions, and multiple-choice answers, that would automatically generate readable, relevant, public-facing, online information.

The final website was simpler and more standardised than the previous format. User testing showed the site is easier for businesses to complete, and easier for people with accessibility needs to use.

‘These new guides will give clear accessibility information to make it easier for disabled visitors to plan their trips with confidence.’
John Glen, UK Government

‘The new accessibility guides will allow travellers to compare attractions and accommodation before choosing their destination, enabling them to make an informed choice.’
Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland Chief Executive

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Inklecomms provided advice and training, to combine a complaints leaflet, and its Easy Read equivalent, into one standard document.

Adaptations using Easier English improved understanding, and ease of use, for patients and carers with diverse language, literacy and knowledge needs.