How to write message pairs

Message panels are used in a whole range of media and formats, from reports and presentations to promotional materials such as mugs and T-shirts – and even on the sides of vehicles.

You can write messages on any theme relevant to HelpAge’s work, including: age helps; demographics; injustice/discrimination; our network; older people’s associations; social protection; livelihoods; health; rights; emergencies, and AIDS.

Messages don’t normally need punctuation. The two-part format creates a natural break in the statement – so a comma at the end of the "red half" isn’t necessary.

For consistency, start the first part of the message with a capital, but start the second part in lower case, and don’t use a full stop at the end.


Limited punctuation may be used where necessary for the meaning of the message – for example question marks, or a comma to separate words within one half of the message.

We were lambs / now we are lions

An exception to the "no punctuation" rule is where the first part of the message is a question. In these cases, end the first part with a question mark, and start the second with a capital.

Who helps older people find their voice? / We do

Message pairs can be used to summarise case studies in the voices of older people themselves, as in:

I cannot walk / but I can lead

They can also be used to make a general statement, as in:

We live in an ageing world / let it not be an ageist world

Equally, they can be used to make a statement in the voice of HelpAge.

We helped Flora get a pension / now her family eats

When using message pairs, be aware of context. Will your message pair appear next to a photo of someone? In that case, the message may seem to be in their voice. Equally,if your message pair appears near the HelpAge logo, you don’t need to repeat the word "HelpAge" – you can just say "We" instead.

Message pairs should be two-part statements, ideally conveying an element of contrast between the first and second part.

They mocked us / now they applaud us

Message pairs are particularly suited to conveying problems (first part) and solutions
(second part). This is a good way to demonstrate HelpAge’s effectiveness and impact.

We helped Flora get a pension / now she no longer begs

The two-part format is also ideal for before and after ‘mini-narratives’ (‘turnaround stories’) – again, underlining HelpAge's impact.

We were lambs / now we are lions

You can also use message pairs for questions and answers – reinforcing HelpAge’s authority position and expertise.

Who helps older people find a voice? / We do

The message pairs should be as crisp and concise as possible. The format is designed for immediacy and impact – which will be lost with overly long sentences.

We gave Yulita a loan / now her family eats

rather than
We gave Yulita a business loan / now her earnings feed her family

Try to avoid using message pairs which simply break up one long sentence, as a) this can easily become unwieldy and b) you then diminish the impact of contrast and comparison.

We can change our world / if people change their attitudes

would work better as

Change attitudes / change the world

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Message library

The message library has pre-prepared message pairs for you to use with your message panels.

Message-library.doc (45 Kb)


Contact the London brand team: or +44 (0)20 7148 7628