You find a post, article or LinkedIn discussion with a great headline. You think, ha!…this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. But no-o-o-o!
Almost immediately you find yourself lost in jargon, bogged down in new-fangled terminology, over-your-head hyperbole and stilted language. In short, frustrated. Here’s the thing. If you’re frustrated, it’s not your fault. It’s the writer’s fault.
I’ve Got News for You.
There is an almost unlimited supply of self-appointed experts on the internet. What makes you think that because you’re reading something from a so-called expert, it will be good writing? Or, even comprehensible writing?
Consider this. Anyone with a keyboard can write anything on the internet. And, there’s a lot of dreadful writers out there.
Often there is a hidden agenda. The idea is to make something sound so complex that you might want to buy something from the writer. The hidden agenda is to frighten you in to hiring the writer or buying their product. In fact, most of the writing on the internet aims at selling you something.
The most appreciated writers take complex subjects and make them understandable. Many writers do the opposite. They make something that could be easily understood and make it sound complex. Why? It makes the writer sound smarter. Smarter than who? Smarter than you, the reader.
Let’s talk about “readability.” Readability has been defined in various ways, e.g. by: The Literacy Dictionary. Easy reading helps learning and enjoyment. So, what we write should be easy to understand. Various factors to measure readability have been used, such as “speed of perception,” “perceptibility at a distance,” “perceptibility in peripheral vision,” “visibility,” “the reflex blink technique,” “rate of work” (e.g., speed of reading), “eye movements,” and “fatigue in reading.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Readability if you want to know more.
According to real experts, the fact is your website content, articles, discussions on LinkedIn, blog posts and the like should be written for the 13-15 year-olds. That’s right…8th graders.
It’s not because your reader is stupid. It’s because your reader 1. has a lot on her mind, 2. has a short attention span, 3. gets frustrated when you talk over her head, 4. is exhausted, 5. has numerous distractions while she is reading, and 6. has a case of information overload.
A Few Readability Tips
· Don’t use jargon or industry slang
· Don’t use initials or abbreviations
· If you use a relatively new term, define it the first time you use it
· Write in pyramid style (everything you really need to know is in the first paragraph)
· Don’t be clever, ironic or make the reader think too hard
· Keep sentences short and punchy
· Assume everyone is a newbie and don’t talk over the their heads
· Use bulleted lists
· Keep it to under 300 words
So, before you publish something, you might want to see if it’s mostly about your topic or your ego. Help stamp out over-wrought writing. Use this tool. Test Your Readability Score