Your business is probably complicated. Very complicated. Does that mean your copy should be too? Of course not. You want your readers to understand your message as easily as a friend’s tweet about their dinner. Better yet, you want them to want to read more from you in the future. You need good readability.
Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a given text. It’s often hard to judge the readability of your own text – after all, you know what point you’re trying to make. But would an intelligent stranger from a different field quickly understand your point? Would your grandmother? Would someone with English as a second language?
It’s not about dumbing down the way you write, it’s about making it read well to everyone. Having an outsider do an audit of your website is a really good way to catch all the problems you can’t see, improving the copy throughout.
When I carry out a site audit I have several tricks up my sleeve to quickly improve the readability of your copy. Here are some of them to try out for yourself.
Seven tricks to instantly improve your readability
1. Write like you speak
Why? Because you’re more likely to connect with your readers, and less likely to make embarrassing mistakes. Often people lean towards formal cliché-ridden business English, which can be both off-putting and harder to understand. That said, remember your readers aren’t all exactly like you – avoid slang and local references so you don’t alienate those who won’t understand.
2. Reduce or eliminate jargon
Whether it’s an acronym you use every day in your field, or some industry-specific jargon, think carefully how it should be used on your site. Will everyone in your target audience understand, or are you just assuming they will?
3. Simplify your language
Don’t “utilise” if you can “use”, and never “facilitate” if you can “help” instead. People often read a page as if they’re reading aloud in their head – if you use difficult words and clichéd phrases it’s a harder, slower read.
4. Don’t signpost what you’re about to say, just say it
People rarely read everything that’s on a webpage. Don’t waste words on something irrelevant. Have a structure and keep to it – if your story moves logically from step to step it’s much easier to follow.
5. Rewrite passive sentences to make them active
Some passive sentences are fine, but active sentences will improve your readability.
6. Use “you” and “we”
It will establish a connection with your reader and make your writing flow better. Compare “customers can choose from red or black ink” with “you can choose from red or black ink”. Which one speaks to you?
7. Use shorter sentences
Keep sentences short and make sure they can all be read aloud without running out of breath. Long sentences can often be split into two (or more!) sentences, making them easier to read and your message stronger.
Need more help? Get in touch and we’ll give you a hand.