Writing tips: easy ways to improve readability

Clearer-copywriting

How often have you read a blog or article that had your eyes glazing over before you finished the first sentence?  

When you put your heart and soul into writing content for your website or newsletter, you really want to know that you’re connecting to your readers.

When reading online, people only skim, so it’s important to make your content approachable, free of jargon and clichés.

In her book Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, content expert Ann Handley gives these tips:

  • Use short paragraphs made up of just a few sentences. It helps to use bullet points or numbered lists to help people scan your content more easily. Highlight important points.
  • Make those sentences succinct (around 25 words per sentence).
  • Try and avoid industry buzzwords. Use straightforward words so people know exactly what you mean. It’s not about dumbing things down. It’s about not putting up any roadblocks to your reader’s understanding.
  • Avoid solid blocks of text. Make sure you include lots of white space around your words.
  • Break up your text with subheadings and visual elements such as photos and graphics.

Quick ways to double check your readability

I’ve no doubt you know your subject. But sometimes it helps to have a way to check that it’s easy to read for your audience.

Microsoft Word has a free built-in readability scorer based on the Flesch-Kincaid method. Rudolf Flesch was all about the benefits of writing in plain English. His theory was that harder-to-read text was harder to understand.

Makes sense doesn’t it? The higher the score, the easier a piece of text was to read. So comics score 92, Time magazine scores 52 and the Harvard Business Review scores 43. Apparently a standard insurance policy scores 10. Not so good. 

You can easily test your own copy using the readability scorer in your Word program.

There are other online programs available that help you write more clearly. I use the Hemingway App. This free service helps you cut down the complexity and simplify your writing.

Our words represent what we stand for. It’s important to make each one count. I can recommend Content Sells as a great book for anyone who writes marketing copy.

What are you favourite writing tips?