Public Health Communication in Time of Crisis: Readability of On-Line COVID-19 Information

Date of Publication
2020

The purpose of this study was to assess the readability of information on the Internet posted about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to determine how closely these materials are written to the recommended reading levels.

Using the search term “coronavirus,” information posted on the first 100 English language websites was identified. Using an online readability calculator, multiple readability tests were conducted to ensure a comprehensive representation would result.

The authors concluded that messages about COVID-19 must be readable at an “easy” level, and must contain clear guidelines for behavior. The degree to which individuals seek information in response to risk messages is positively related to the expectation that the information will resolve uncertainty. However, if the information is too complex to interpret and it fails to lead to disambiguation, this can contribute to feelings of panic