In a world where clever SEO strategies abound, it can be all too easy to overlook the fundamentals. In this article, we’ll go back to basics and discuss one of the cornerstones of successful content: readability.
If your content isn’t reader-friendly, no amount of technical wizardry will save it! This blog will explore what readability is, why it’s important and some painless ways to improve readability in your writing.
So, let’s get started.
What is readability?
Irrespective of your content’s subject matter, your target audience should be able to understand it without struggling or re-reading sections. They should also stay engaged long enough to read your piece in its entirety. Finally, you’d expect them to be left with some “takeaways”, i.e. what did they learn/discover from your content? If they came away none the wiser, then you might have a problem with readability.
Fortunately, giving your content a bit of a readability boost is easy to achieve if you follow some straightforward steps.
Ways to improve readability
Take these tips on board and watch the readability of your content soar:
1) Use short sentences:
People today tend to be pretty time-poor, so make their lives easier by writing in short sentences. As a rule of thumb, try to use sentences with 20 words or fewer. Look out for commas: if you have two or more in the same sentence consider splitting that sentence into two shorter ones. Not only are shorter sentences easier to read, they’ll also make you sound more authoritative (a win-win scenario).
2) Avoid long words:
Generally, the more syllables a word has the harder it is to read. So, don’t use three or four-syllable words where you can use one with two (e.g. choose happy not contented). This will also avoid you alienating your readers with flowery vocab!
3) Break it up:
Just as lengthy sentences tend to hamper readability, long paragraphs can frustrate readers, too. Having short paragraphs allows readers to quickly work through your content by scanning a section at a time.
Break up your copy by using helpful headings and presenting text in a different way where appropriate, e.g. using bulleted lists. Using sub-headings will also help Google quickly get the gist of your piece (another bonus).
4) Ditch the jargon:
Avoid technical terms, acronyms and insider lingo in favour of simple language that everyone can understand. If you really can’t get around using complex terminology, add a short definition in brackets the first time it appears to minimise reader confusion.
5) Switch to the active voice:
When you use the passive voice in your writing, readability drops. Use the active voice instead – your piece will be easier to follow, punchier and your readers will thank you for it! Don’t write the contracts were signed by the lawyer; instead write the lawyer signed the contracts. If you want to learn more about active vs. passive, check out our grammar blog!
6) Use tools to help:
If you’re still concerned about hitting the right readability note, you’re not on your own! There’s a range of tools out there that can point out and assist you with ways to improve readability. The WordPress plug-in Yoast is a particular Write My Site favourite!
Follow this advice to make sure your audience gets the most out of your content (and keeps coming back for more). The readability of your copy is, and will continue to be, crucial to its success – many of your readers will be multi-tasking or skim-reading your material and will only read on if you make it easy for them.
So, put in some work now to nail the ways to improve readability of your content and creating successful pieces will soon become second nature!