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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Content order can affect readability.

Did you know that social scientists investigated the best order of WEA message contents? They did! And it looks something like the edited message here.

In the early days of WEA, when it was CMAS and limited to 90 characters, social scientists conducted studies on how to maximize the utility and increase comprehension of these terse messages. Later, as longer messages were rolling out, they did it again and found that receivers prefer to see messages organized as follows:

1. SOURCE - indicate who the message is from so that people don't have to guess

2. HAZARD - tell what the warning is about and what it's impact may be on populations

3. LOCATION - tell where the hazard is occurring and who it might affect

4. GUIDANCE - tell people how to protect themselves or others

5. TIME - this one varies... if it is when the event is occurring, move it up in the message. If it is when people should take action, move it to that section. If it is when the message expires, place it at the end.

At the conclusion of the message, we offer phone numbers/web addresses for more information. This is really important for those who aren't satisfied with the information you've provided and will save them time looking for how to contact you.

By using this order, we not only improve readability but increase a consistency of practice between organizations that sent alerts. The more familiar a message receiver becomes, the better they'll be able to take action quickly.

And that's your lesson from the editor's desk for today!


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