• written communication;
  • readability formulae;
  • literacy

Written patient information materials can be valuable communication tools for teaching and reinforcing the verbal message, especially in the present climate of today's health service where patients are in hospital for such short times. They are only useful if the patient is able to read and understand them, otherwise they become an expensive waste of resources. Various studies have shown that many healthcare information leaflets are written at university or postgraduate level and would cause problems with understanding for many people reading them. This study set out to examine the readability of nurse-designed written information leaflets using the Flesch Reading Ease score and the FOG and SMOG readability formulae. This descriptive study used a sample of 24 leaflets designed by trained nurses in a large teaching hospital. The results produced a mean grade of 11.3 with a range of 8.9 to 14.8. This was similar to the results of other studies and meant that patients may have difficulty comprehending the information. It would appear that little progress has been made in 40 years in this area and potential reasons are discussed. Advantages and disadvantages of readability formulae and other guidelines available for developing information leaflets are explored. Recommendations for further research are made.