Have you heard of the term ‘readability score’? Perhaps back in school, you were asked to write an essay or a report with a certain readability score.
Well, what you learn in school doesn’t stay in school.
As a blogger, you must ensure that your content is on par with your audience’s level of experience and literacy. Your content should NOT be too easy for your readers to understand because they will then undervalue your expertise. At the same time, it should NOT be too challenging because it will turn off your readers and add no value to their lives.
If you have never heard about the term ‘readability,’ it is a measurement system for your content. Based on several parameters, the system assigns a score.
The Flesch–Kincaid readability measuring system is one of the most popular readability measurement systems. It assigns a different range of scores for various age groups and literacy level. Assuming your blog content is targetted at young moms who have a college degree, your readability score should be between 60.0 and 70.0.
If you have the Yoast plugin installed on your WordPress (as you should), you will find the “Readability” tab built right into the system (screenshot below).
Here’s how my Readability summary of this post looks on Yoast. As you can see my writing is not perfect and does not meet all the criteria of the measuring system. The conditions my post doesn’t fulfill, it’s my writing choice to let those be. For example, I am okay with having one section in the entire post that’s more than 300 words. These are subjective decisions you will have to make before publishing your content. But be honest with yourself about things you can let go of.
Why should you care about your content’s readability score?
Well, first of all, there’s no point slaving to create content that nobody can understand. Make it easy for your readers to understand your content.
It may not be obvious but most results that rank high on search engine result pages are easy to read and carry a high readability score. This means that your content’s readability score affects your ranking on search engines too.
Once you have visitors to your blog via the search engines, you want them to stay on your website for as long as possible and ideally, convert them into subscribers. However, if your blog’s content is not up to the standard they expect, they will neither subscribe nor return.
10 Tips to Improve Your Blog’s Readability Score
Alright, let’s get to the tips.
Restrict your posts to one idea
In an earlier post, I have already written about the importance of focusing on only one key idea in your blog posts and courses. It deserves repetition because this one thing can make or break your blog post/course.
Navigating more than one key idea confuses the readers (and search engines!) and they do not understand what to focus on. That is a surefire way to dunk your readability score into deep water.
You may choose to deep-dive into a topic or create a list of actions, but ensure that the content still funnels up to the one central idea.
To help you keep the focus, begin by identifying the ONE primary goal of your blog post (or course)–what is it that you want your readers to accomplish?
Then, create a content outline before you start writing the content. Ensure that each subheading in the outline (or lessons in a course) align with the primary goal of the post (or course).
After you finish writing the post (or lesson), review the content to ensure that you are meeting the end goal.
Organize your thoughts
As a content creator, your mind is full of ideas. But as an educator, you need to present your ideas in a sequence that is most beneficial to your audience.
Your audience comprises of people who are at different levels of experience and knowledge. To ensure your content is meaningful to all levels of audience, your content has to flow from general to specific. Sometimes, it may even become necessary to create different posts or courses for different levels.
Within a post or a lesson, cover the big concept first and then filter down to smaller concepts. Or, present a generic example that is relatable to a larger audience before using specific examples.
Additionally, use subheadings, bullets, and numbered lists to help your readers follow the intended structure.
Again, creating a content outline before writing the content will help you see the structure and flow of the post from the beginning.
Write in the active voice
One tip that is common to all books on writing practices is to write in the active voice.
Active voice helps trim unnecessary words, thus making it easier to read. More importantly, sentences written in the active voice are more impactful and appealing.
Conversely, most sentences written in passive voice are difficult to understand (especially for non-native English speakers—they too may be your audience!). The difficulty arises because passive sentences contain more words and shift the focus from the subject.
This is not to say that you can never use the passive voice—the truth is some sentences sound better in the passive voice. But as far as possible, try to write the majority of your content in the active voice.
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Fun fact: my first job was in a call center. One of the first things we learned and were constantly monitored for was the use of filler words and dead air. You see, in spoken language, it is very common for filler words to seep in. They should not, but they do.
But in written content, there is no excuse for using filler words.
When I say filler words, you may think of words such as “umm…,” “you know…,” “like…,” and you are right. These words indeed must be avoided in written content as much as possible (trust me, there are plenty of these in this post!). Sure, they help your writing sound more conversational but be very intentional about using these words. It’s OKAY to use fillers at times…it can add some interest when used intentionally. Just don’t go overboard.
But there is a second class of words that you must identify and eliminate from your work. Let’s call these ‘inconsequential words.’
When creative juices flow, we tend to embellish our sentences with words that are inconsequential to the sentence. These words do nothing but fill pages…but hey, blogging is no writing competition…unless you write about writing or storytelling
I am not a writing coach but I can tell you this: avoid words that are redundant and add no value to your content.
Here’s a fun exercise. Listed below are six examples of sentences, which are wordier than they need to be. Can you edit these and come up with appropriate replacements? The first one is solved.
Original: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.
Revised: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.
• Make use of Google doc to save your first drafts.
• I am wanting to start a blog.
• I can definitely see where you are heading with your blog.
• Given the fact we are living in the digital age, it is very important to be on social media platforms.
• I am planning to launch a new course in the month of March.
Note: Editing is subjective. There is no right or wrong answer. But there is always something you can do to make your sentences concise.
Write short and simple sentences
If you write in active voice, your sentences will naturally be short and simple. However, be intentional about making your content easy-to-understand for your audience.
Restrict your paragraphs to 3-5 sentences.
Within each paragraph, construct sentences that are no more than 18-20 words.
In a paragraph, if you write a long sentence, make the other sentences short.
More importantly, know where to end your paragraph. This is where your editing skills will come into play. If you find more than one concept or idea in a paragraph, stop and start a new paragraph.
Use transition words and phrases
Transition words—such as, firstly, but, additionally, meanwhile, etc.—are used to link ideas between sentences and paragraphs. These words help steer your readers in the right direction and their absence makes your content sound disjointed.
Think of transition words and phrases as a bridge to help your reader move from one thought to another. They create the flow needed for easy comprehension and retention of information, which is one of the goals of every instructional content you write.
Vary the length
Reading large chunks of text not only leads to fatigue but also introduces monotony. This is dangerous because your readers may leave your website without spending enough time getting to know you.
Make it easier for your readers to stay on your website longer.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs. This creates an interesting rhythm and then breaks the rhythm before it gets monotonous. You may think, “Mala, isn’t that bad? Breaking their rhythm?”
The answer is a resounding “NO.”
Think about it: a rhythm is made up of different notes, not the same note over and over again (that’s called hypnosis!!)
Let’s take another example: think of a poor movie or a play you watched. Or, even a music piece. What made it poor for you? Often, the answer is a flat script or note. The different pitches, tones, emphasis, length of a scene, etc. make the movie or the music piece interesting.
Similarly, for written content, mix it up. Write one long paragraph followed by a couple of short ones. Within a paragraph, write no more than one long sentence.
Use these tips not only for your future posts, but revisit your old post and determine if you need to update their readability.
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