Content Readability: Why You Should Simplify Your Writing

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Whenever I read philosophy textbooks, I fall asleep within minutes.

Why?

I love philosophy, but the authors always feel this urge to use confusing terms to make themselves sound sophisticated — and it pisses me off.

But when Prof. Conrad came along, he opened a new world to me. His lecture notes flowed like warm milk on a cold winter morning.

The professor spoke in “our language” and allowed us to express ourselves without the chains of pretentious, pompous sentences.

That semester, nobody in the entire class failed philosophy.

This was my first experience with content readability and simplicity — and it was refreshing.

So, what is content readability and why do you need it as a writer?

What is content readability?

Content readability is a metric that indicates how understandable your content is — the ability of the readers to digest your content.

Here is the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale for content readability.

Readability is a factor that every business owner, content writer, and marketer should consider in their written communication.

Why is content readability important?

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From Giphy

Experts writers and marketers recommend simplifying your content because of the following reasons:

  1. It makes your content understandable

Judging from the definition of content readability, you’ve probably guessed that it makes your writing more comprehensible. 

Nobody wants to read sentences flooded with complex structures and multi-syllable words. 

Readers of web content crave simple expressions. And by simplifying your writing, you attract a larger audience.

  1. Readable content makes you a better communicator

Breaking from your academic writing habits is a tough ask, but you become a better communicator by doing so.

Remember that your consumer demographics vary across multiple ages, education levels, and reading grades. 

So, simplifying your writing to the essentials helps you to get your message across.

  1. Readability is good for SEO

Web content readability improves user experience and increases the time consumers spend on your website — which is vital for SEO.

Beyond the human factor, content readability is good for your site’s (or blog’s) technical SEO. 

Google evaluates the quality of your content based on readability, authority, and a set of advanced algorithms. 

So, improving content readability SEO boosts your site’s ranking.

7 tips to make your content readable

Content readability is not only about writing simple sentences and checking the score. You need to adopt other practices to make sure the consumers (humans) aren’t left behind. 

And that’s why you need to boost the readability score.

So what is this content readability score?

Content readability score is a numerical value that indicates the simplicity of a content piece based on readers’ Flesch-Kincaid grade level. 

Let’s explore how to improve content readability score:

1 — Keep it skimmable

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From Giphy

Back in the days of college, professors wanted us to express our knowledge as complicated individuals.

The experts frowned on simple writing because it “dumbed down” their life’s work. 

Even if you are an aspiring academic, unlearn that habit today.

Web content consumers don’t want to be impressed by your elitist jargon and buzzwords; they want to get the gist and scroll to other things.

And that’s why you should keep your content skimmable.

Don’t write long paragraphs lumped into one massive block. Feel free to space out the paragraphs.

Also, use bullet lists to share valuable points. And above all, use topic-relevant headers at the start of every section.

2 — Use attention-grabbing headers 

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From Giphy

Most people read only headlines to get the gist of any article — and that’s why clickbait works.

But I am not promoting clickbait headlines. Use only topic-relevant headlines to hook the reader.

For example, adding numbers and emotional words in your headlines makes a lasting first impression on the reader.

“Bridging the Gender Wage Gap.”

VS

“7 Ways to Ensure Women Get The Same Salaries as Men.”

Although both headers address the same issue, the second version offers concrete solutions to an identified problem. 

As a result, the reader knows what to expect from the content.

By the way, you can use online headline analyzers to evaluate the emotional scores of the headers in your text.

3 — Use active voice 

Passive voice writing comes from academic writing.

“This paper was written by me and my companion, Wikipedia.”

And since this kind of language is a staple of professional writing, most of your readers won’t enjoy reading it.

With that in mind, always write in the active voice.

Why?

Active voice writing is readable because it presents the subject and object in a way the reader can understand, regardless of their comprehension level.

Besides, active writing keeps the reader intrigued because it is direct and concise.

4 — Use natural language

Content writing readability also depends on the language you use. If you are a law firm, your communication can contain some formal language — it is just part of the trade.

That said, always use language that feels natural to your reader because they can tell when you are being fake.

Don’t sound like a law firm if you are a lifestyle blogger — not even if you are blogging about your life as a lawyer.

Identify the target audience and speak to them like peers. To do this, you must develop a customer persona and gather user feedback.

5 — Request feedback from readers

Feedback Thank You GIF by The Bachelor content readability
From Giphy

What better way to learn what readers want than asking them directly?

User feedback gives you a bead on what readers think about your writing. Sometimes, they share their frustration in the comments. In other cases, the engagement data tells the story.

But if you don’t want to risk sharing your content before it is ready, ask someone close to you to read the draft.  

You can bribe your 10th-grade nephew to read the blog post and tell you the unfiltered truth. And yes, 10th graders can be ruthless critics.

6 — Get rid of jargon

Jargonized content is a muddy pit for writers in niche industries. You want to stick with the familiar and establish authority with your readers.

But what about newcomers? How do they get the gist?

You see, jargon alienates your potential audience like my narcissistic professors made me hate philosophy.

So, get rid of jargon if you want your audience to engage with your content.

7 — Improve the visual content

Visuals make your content more understandable in a way Flesch Kincaid readability tests can’t.

For starters, visual content gives extra context to the text. An image or GIF bolsters the message and solidifies the writer’s intended meaning.

Secondly, video content helps readers save time and internet bandwidth. 

Instead of spending time on a long article, internet users would rather watch short videos and animations.

And finally, visual content breaks the monotony of staring at blocks of text for a long time. In essence, it improves your readability score by adding color to your writing.

8 — Use content readability tools 

If you need assistance improving your content readability score, you can find tools online. Nowadays, you can even get the best readability checker free online. 

Here are some content readability tools to enrich your toolbox:

  • Hemingway App — a free-to-use web app that you can also download to your desktop 
  • Yoast SEO — a plug-in for WordPress on-site SEO
  • Grammarly — a hybrid grammar checker that also improves readability
  • Readable — a web app that uses the Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level score.
  • WebFX Readability Tool

Use one or more of these tools to achieve a high readability score and make readers rush to read your content.

Conclusion

Content readability is essential to the growth of your blog, business, or product. If you want to engage better with customers, you must make your writing easier for them to digest. 

Use conversational writing and active sentences to deliver your message. Make the content skimmable and jargon-free. 

Don’t forget to add images and graphics to make the content more entertaining.

And above all, use content readability tools like the Hemingway App to make your sentence easier to understand.


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Author: Ugo

As the owner and editor of SomebodySays, Ugo Ezenduka shows readers the fundamentals of content writing and blogging to help them adapt to the ever-changing landscape. He has collaborated with several IT and publishing companies to create articles and blog posts that customers crave. When he is not in front of a screen, Ugo can be spotted somewhere with a camera or on a football pitch.

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