Writing accessible content

For everyone

Write to communicate. Clear, concise writing takes skill and time, but the benefits to your readers are profound.

Most people don't read closely on the web. Instead, they skim over content, searching for just the information they need.  Text that is brief, to the point, and well organized not only helps everyone but is crucial for people with reading, memory and attention deficit or other cognitive conditions and those who speak English as a second language.

Simple, concise language

Edit your content to make it as understandable and succinct as possible:

  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Try to keep paragraphs to one main idea.
  • Cut or condense what 4 Syllables calls "wordy writing, repetition, and low-value content," such as welcome messages and "introductions that state the obvious or repeat information that appears further down the page."
  • Use descriptive and unique link text (e.g., “Chapter 2 on biometrics” rather than “chapter” or “click here”).
  • Clarify your text with images or video.
  • Avoid jargon and ambiguous, obscure or complex words and phrases.
  • Avoid idioms, such as "piece of cake" and "sit on the fence."
  • Spell out abbreviations and acronyms the first time they are used.
  • Use the Equation Editor in Canvas' Rich Content Editor.
  • Copy and paste your content into MS Word. Then follow these instructions to generate Readability Statistics:
    MS Word's readability statistics window
    Or you can use free online checkers like:

Organize and structure content

  • Group related ideas under hierarchical headings to organize content, to establish relationships between chunks of content. and to visually break up large, daunting chunks of text.
  • Use numbered or bulleted lists, which are easy to scan and comprehend. Use bullet lists to arrange related items; numbered lists indicate a process.

Clear instructions

Don't assume people know what you want them to do on your site or course.  Provide simple, clear instructions, help tips, and error messages.  Avoid jargon and technical terms.  Describe form input requirements, such as date and phone number formats.

Unclear Clear
Form fields without help text Form fields with help text is clearer


Disability Language Style Guide

For a guide on writing about disabilities, please refer to the Disability Language Style Guide, provided by the National Center on Disability and Journalism and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


For instructors

Canvas Rich Content Editor

In addition to the suggestions for everyone, make sure to use the Canvas Rich Content Editor to format content. The Rich Content Editor's built-in styles for headings, bold and italic, links, lists, tables and image, file and document uploads will automatically add the underlying HTML code needed to ensure your content is accessible.

​​​​Canvas Rich Content Editor

Equation Editor

If there are mathematical equations or scientific notations in your content, be sure to use the Equation Editor in Canvas' Rich Content Editor.
Equation Editor choice in ​​​​the Canvas Rich Content Editor The Equation Editor pane in the Canvas Rich Content Editor



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