Improve the Readability of Your Writing in 60 Seconds
Your success as a writer hinges upon your commitment to constantly improving the readability of your copy. Failure to make readability a priority can lead readers to abandon your copy at first sight. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by following a few simple measures before you finalize your copy.
Who Should Focus on Improving the Readability of their Writing?
Any person who writes or reviews written content for a living should strive to improve their copy readability. However, there are certain professionals who should make readability a top priority, including the following:
- Web content writers
- Researchers who review legal and health-related documents
- Authors of instruction manuals
- Copywriters seeking an objective review of their work
- Trainers and coaches
10 Quick Strategies to Improve Readability
From using concise words and sentences to using similes and metaphors to engage readers, writers can improve the readability of their copy in a number of ways. Below are ten tips to help you improve the readability of your writing in 60 seconds.
1. Use concise sentences.
Short sentences help readers absorb information quickly and easily. In his book “Indlish; The Book For Every English-Speaking Indian”, author Jyoti Sanyal spends a chapter discussing the importance of short sentences. He summarizes research on sentence length as follows:
“Based on several studies, press associations in the USA have laid down a readability table. Their survey shows readers find sentences of 8 words or less very easy to read; 11 words, easy; 14 words fairly easy; 17 words standard; 21 words fairly difficult; 25 words difficult and 29 words or more, very difficult.”
2. Choose short words whenever possible.
The length of the words you choose is just as important as the length of your sentences. Using words with multiple syllables can make content more difficult to understand, increasing the likelihood that your readers may miss your key points. Choosing short words is recommended as they can help readers grasp the meaning of your copy more easily.
3. Avoid complicated language.
Your audience should never have to stop reading to try to decipher your message. Stopping to contemplate the meaning of complicated language puts a damper on the reader experience and leaves the reader prone to distractibility. The best way to avoid this phenomenon is to use clear, simple language to convey your message. Writing in plain language helps your audience understand your content the first time they read your copy.
4. If you must use obscure language, provide an explanation.
There are times when using complicated language may be appropriate or even required. For instance, quoting an industry expert or outlining key technical points is sometimes necessary. However, you should also include a description or explanation of the obscure phrase in parentheses after the phrase. Failure to provide a description can cause the reader to lose interest in the copy.
5. Use the active voice rather than the passive voice.
Active voice is recommended for most non-scientific writing because it prevents sentences from becoming too complex or lengthy. Writers can convey action in active voice using fewer words than active voice, creating a more concise copy.
6. Break up your content into small paragraphs.
Facing a massive wall of uninterrupted text can produce unintended consequences among readers. Rather than sparking a reader’s interest, lengthy paragraphs can cause readers’ eyes to glaze over or cause them to prematurely abandon your copy. The Purdue Online Writing Lab recommends the following guidelines when constructing paragraphs:
- Each paragraph should focus on one single idea or concept
- Include three to five sentences in each paragraph
- Look at each page to see if your paragraphs are balanced
7. Include headings to transition from one section of copy to the next.
Headings provide your audience with an idea of the content they are about to read. More important, headings promote readability in the following ways:
- Headings provide an organized framework for content
- They separate copy into manageable sections
- Headings make it easy for busy professionals to scan your copy
- They make copy more visually appealing
8. Use similes, analogies, and metaphors to engage readers.
Keeping readers engaged is one of the greatest challenges a writer faces. Fostering engagement requires writers to make content relevant and interesting to readers. Similes, metaphors, and analogies help bring life to dry topics and are useful in explaining technical content.
9. Measure the readability of your copy.
A key step to take before finalizing your copy is to assess its effectiveness using a proven scoring system. Below are a few ways to measure the readability of your copy:
- Conduct a sentiment analysis to assess whether your copy is positive, negative or neutral
- Measure the time it takes to read your copy
- Screen for keyword density
10. Have a second set of eyes review your copy.
Asking a colleague or friend to review your copy will help identify grammatical mistakes and other errors that you may have missed. More important, this measure will help ensure that your copy is visually appealing and that it properly conveys key points to readers.
Bonus Tip: Seek the Guidance of an Industry Expert
The best way to ensure that your copy is readable is to seek the expertise of a trusted readability specialist. It only takes a few seconds to contact a readability expert by phone or e-mail. Because not all readability experts are created equal, you should use care when seeking professional guidance. Be sure to choose a reputable provider who is experienced, accessible, and willing to provide references and testimonials. A trusted readability professional will help you make sure that your copy is engaging, relevant, well-organized, and visually appealing.
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Holly Scherer, Author and Speaker