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- Writing your text
Guide to good symbol content
Writing your text
If you are creating fully symbolised content or adding a symbol summary, rather than adding symbol support to existing text with key symbols or symbol highlights, you will very probably need to reword whatever text you have before symbolising it.
Whether you are creating content that is fully symbolised throughout, or creating a symbol summary as part of an inclusive document, it is vital to be aware of the importance of simple language.
As a general rule, the more clear and concise your language is, the easier it will be for people to understand. This is especially true when symbolising text.
To ensure that your content is as simply written as possible, begin by deciding exactly what it is that you want to say.
Talking aloud is a good first step, as people tend to speak in more simple terms than they write. When you begin writing, use short sentences in plain language.
This is particularly applicable when symbolising existing text that needs to be simplified before you can add symbols. A paragraph of text can be very descriptive and emotive. It may include a lot of words that are not actually information carriers, and others that may be unfamiliar to your audience.
If you choose to provide symbol support for your content by creating a symbol summary, the first step is to decide upon the main pieces of information in the content that you would like to be included in the summary.
A good way to do this is to separate the text into sections. Generally speaking, up to three paragraphs of original text would include the amount of information that could be symbolised within a symbol summary. If your original content is more than three paragraphs long, you may need to use more than one symbol summary. For each section, make a bulleted list of information that you would like to include in the symbol summary.
Once you have made your bulleted list, you will need to write one to two simple sentences which express this information.
A symbol summary can be up to to four lines long, so if your summary is longer than this, you may want to review how essential each piece of information you are including is, or split this summary into two summaries and include the second later in the document.
You will then have your summary sentence ready to symbolise. There is more information on how to do this in the next section.
Simple language example
If you wanted to symbolise the text:
'Today I went to the shops. It was a very pleasant walk with the sun shining, and the birds singing in the trees. Along the way, I bumped into an old friend who greeted me warmly. We chatted for a while and reminisced about old times.'
1) First, you need to extract each key piece of information that is being given to the reader and make a list in very plain English. When doing this, it is important to ensure that you omit all non-information carriers and replace all words that may be unfamiliar to your audience with terms that they are more likely to understand:
- Went to the shops today
- Sun shining
- Birds singing
- Met friend
- Talked to friend about the past
Non-information carriers can very easily be omitted without changing the meaning or purpose of the content.
2) The next stage is to create sentences from this list, using simple language and structure. The sentences should include all of the words necessary to illustrate the concepts, but not be overcrowded with words that do not carry information. The aim of this 'rewriting' process is to convert your original text into a simpler, easier to read form:
I went to the shops today.
The sun was shining.
The birds were singing in the trees.
I met a friend.
We talked about the past.
By extracting the key information from your content, and then rewriting each piece of information in plain language, you can ensure that your content is ready to be symbolised.
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