How Readable is Your Blog Content?

Forty-eight-word sentences. Verbs disguised as nouns. Three-syllable words that aren’t used in conversation. Unnecessary jargon. These are just a few of the things that stop readers in their tracks. And yet we still fight the battle every day in the B2B space, where companies earnestly believe that sophisticated buyers want sophisticated language.

What we find is that all buyers want clear thinking and the ability to move efficiently through a blog post or white paper. The subject matter can be complex, but there is no need to make the wording complicated. Think of it this way. Each day you do 30 minutes on a treadmill. Would you prefer your daily quota at an incline of 1% or 10%? It is the exact same amount of time, but the 1% won’t take it out of you in the same way.

So exactly how easy is your content to read? Here are some simple ways to determine this:

  1. Calculate the average sentence length of the piece. Shoot for 26-28 words on average per sentence. This means you can’t squeeze six ideas into one sentence. 

  2. Learn the power of the very short sentence. Four-to-six word sentences give the reader a chance to breathe and give your writing impact. Great preachers have mastered this skill.

  3. Look for the hidden verbs. Which would you rather read?

Option A - Before hiring additional staff, you must seek authorization from the Director.

Option B - The Director must authorize the hiring of staff.

Note that Option B has nearly 30% fewer words with the same meaning. So that one sentence of 11 words (Option A) is not a three-paragraph posting. Verbs are often hidden in words ending in -tion, -sion, -sive, -ance and -ment. Most of these are words that we would actually never say over a cup of coffee. So if you see a word ending in one of these suffixes, try to extract the verb – implementation to implement, advancement to advance, and authorization to authorize, etc.

  1. Look for redundancy in your writing. One of my all-time favorites is “live band.” Beats the heck out of the alternative. But seriously, redundancies creep into business writing and make it less powerful – such as “advance” planning, “current” trend, “upcoming” event and “final” outcome. These just scratch the surface of how our writing becomes weighty.

  2. Don’t be afraid of paragraph breaks or punctuation. They help prevent a “wall of words” that readers never like to encounter.

  3. Get rid of unnecessary three-syllable words, and save long words for technical and content-rich ideas. Run your writing through the Gunning Fog Index calculator. If it scores higher than 15, try to bring that score down to a more readable level.  http://www.readabilityformulas.com/gunning-fog-readability-formula.php

  4. And last but not least, have someone else read your writing and be open to considering all the red marks. Give the editor a purple pen if you want to avoid flashbacks of your most demanding high school English teacher. 

Plain English writing, with rich ideas presented crisply, is always more likely to be noticed and shared. 

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