Your goals are to get people to read the copy on your website, blog and/or social media to inform and connect with readers. Big words and long sentences disengage customers. Here are a couple of tips to help reach your goal.
Bigger words don’t impress your readers
Can you tell what this sentence means in five seconds or less?
Interactive Development as Pedagogical Process: Digital Media Design in the Classroom as a Method for Recontextualizing the Study of Material Culture
What does it mean and should you continue reading? It’s likely your eyes started glazing over after the fourth word. Now, to be fair, that’s the title of a research study. But it was used as a headline on a web page. It shouldn’t have been.
Online visitors looking for knowledge—to assess your organization’s offerings—have little time to slice through reading levels above the eighth grade for American audiences. Does that shock you? The Wall Street Journal is written at the eleventh grade level and its front page is written for a ninth grade reading level.
That doesn’t mean audiences can’t understand higher reading levels. It means they don’t want to—not when they’re trying to quickly take in information. And let’s face it: There is so much stuff to read these days we’re all trying to do it quickly, aren’t we?
Put your sentences on a diet
Reduce the number of words and paragraphs to the minimum needed to tell your story. Instead of counting up the words and paragraphs yourself, let your software or online tools do it for you.
Here are a few easy ways to check the reading level of your copy:
- Microsoft Word on a Mac
1. Go to Preferences under Word in Microsoft Word.
2. Click on Spelling and Grammar.
3. Select the box Show Readability Statistics.
4. Click OK.
5. On the tools menu click on Tools.
6. Click on Spelling and Grammar.
7. If there are any spelling or grammar errors, a window will appear and give you the chance to correct them.
8. When you are finished, a new window appears with the Readability Statistics.
- Microsoft Word on a PC
1. Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Word Options.
2. Click Proofing.
3. Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.
4. Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.
You can find several readability calculators online. One is StoryToolz.com. Click on the readability button from the home page, and then simply copy and paste your text into the window. You’ll receive results from many different readability tests, as well as analysis of word usage and sentence beginnings. (This blog post clocks in at a sixth grade reading level.)
Getting a score of 9.0 or higher on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level test? These are some easy ways to lower that score and raise your readability:
- Cut down the length of some of your longer sentences.
- Reduce your average number ollables per word (look for easy revisions, such as changing “utilize” to “use”).
- Break up your paragraphs so there are fewer sentences per paragraph.
If you write in a concise, easy-to-read manner, you have a much better chance of keeping your audience interested in your brand’s communications.