Writing for all abilities

Microsoft style—clean, simple design and crisp, clear content—is easier for all readers to use, so nearly every writing recommendation in this guide will improve accessibility. Pay special attention to the following guidelines.

Put the person first

In general, refer to a person who has a kind of disability, not a disabled person. When you must describe specific disabilities or people with specific disabilities, use approved terminology.

Write brief, meaningful, and focused text

Be especially clear and concise in instructions for product setup, basic features, input methods, and accessibility features.

Lead with what matters most, so readers know immediately where to focus their attention.

Keep paragraphs short and sentence structure simple—aim for one verb per sentence. Read text aloud and imagine it spoken by a screen reader.

Use parallel writing structures for similar things. For example, use singular nouns for each top-level heading. Or, use a verb to start each item in a list.

Spell out words like and, plus, and about. Screen readers can misread text that uses special characters like the plus sign (+) and tilde (~).

Write brief but meaningful link text. Be descriptive—links should make sense without the surrounding text.

Distinguish link text visually. Use redundant visual cues, such as both color and underline.

Don’t force line breaks (also known as hard returns) within sentences and paragraphs. They may not work well in resized windows or with enlarged text.

Use content structure and location to communicate

Emphasize important points visually and stylistically. Lists, headings, and tables reinforce relationships between concepts. Provide summary information about the table, and use concise and specific column headings.

Use heading styles instead of text formatting. Heading levels communicate the hierarchy of content.

Don’t use directional terms as the only clue to location. Left, right, up, down, above, and below aren’t very useful for people who use screen-reading software. If you must use a directional term, provide additional text about the location, such as in the Save As dialog box, on the Standard toolbar, or in the title bar.

Document alternate input methods

In product documentation, document all supported modes of interaction, input commands, and keyboard shortcuts. Include mice, keyboards, voice recognition devices, game controllers, gestures, and other interaction modes.

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Describing alternative input methods

In procedures and instructions, use generic verbs that apply to all input methods and devices. Avoid verbs like click (mouse) and swipe (touch) that don't make sense with some alternative input methods used for accessibility.

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Describing interactions with UI