Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Guidelines for Writing Clear Instructions and Messages for Voters and Poll Workers



Janice (Ginny) Redish, Sharon J. Laskowski


Voters are exercising an important right as American citizens. If they cannot understand how to use their voting materials, they may not be successful in voting for the candidates and positions of their choice. Clear instructions are a necessary part of the voting process whether voters use paper ballots, mechanical devices (lever or punch card), electronic devices, or any other medium. This document includes 20 guidelines for clear ballot instructions for both paper and electronic ballots. It also gives seven guidelines for writing clear system messages on electronic voting machines. Each guideline includes a statement of what to do, reasons for doing it, and an example
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7596
Report Number


Ballot Usability, Ballot Instructions, Best Practice in Language, Plain Language


Redish, J. and Laskowski, S. (2009), Guidelines for Writing Clear Instructions and Messages for Voters and Poll Workers, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed June 13, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created June 4, 2009, Updated October 12, 2021