Can Your Audience Read That?

Five strategies to write for the reader, not for you.

white tablet computer on top of newspaper

The best business writing needs to stay as simple and straightforward as possible. This maximizes clarity and reduces the possibility of the audience misunderstanding your writing or even worse, ignoring your writing. Simple writing is a lot like ice skating – the easier it looks, the harder it really is.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when writing to match your audiences reading level:

1.Unless your audience is a high school English teacher, don’t write an essay.
The average article length changes based on the times and also the context- in 2012, 500 to 700 words was the magic number for posts. In the days of long-form, many posts are now 1,500 to 3,000 words, sometimes longer. However, no one gets brownie points for going over their own needed word count – the faster you can get through your message, the better. This respects your audiences’ time and patience.

2.Know how readability calculators work.
Sentence lengths should vary, but be generally on the shorter side. The longer the sentence, the more difficult they are to understand. Longer words increase readability scores, which can be a bad sign.

3.Necessary jargon needs explaining.
Reduce the heavy lifting by keeping jargon to a minimum, and if you need it, explain what it is. A good way to check if your language is too technical is to ask yourself, ‘if I said this sentence to someone on the sidewalk or on the bus, would they understand me?’

4.When in doubt, keep it out.
Every word should be paying its rent. When editing, delete filler words including ‘actually’ ‘almost’ or ‘just.’ To see how these words connect to each sentence, separate the sentences into one line to see they are necessary. Find any redundancies to avoid word count inflation.

5.Write conversationally.
Write for the ease of the reader. The faster it can be to read, the more energy your writing will have.

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