It doesn’t matter if you’re a sales copywriter or a Marcom person, one of the most important things to do is to check your writing for readability.
You may have spent countless hours fine-tuning and editing your work but does it necessarily mean your readers can understand you?
So before you send your press release or sales brochure for print, make sure you understand this rule-of-thumb: the more readable your text is, the higher the chance you’ll get a response.
Before you go, “What?! Does that mean I have to proof-read my document again?” Here’s the GOOD NEWS: Checking for readability is as easy as a click of the button. It only takes a minute and involves very little work on your part.
Here’s what you should do:
Copy and paste your text into Microsoft Office Word 2010. If you’re not using Microsoft Word, you can use an online readability tool such as http://www.readability-score.com
In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click on Review.
Next, click on Spelling and Grammar:
In the window that pops up, click on Options:
Right up to this point, you’ll see several sets of figures. Don’t let them frustrate you. I hate numbers myself! But what we’re really interested in are the bottom 3 sets of scores
1. Passive Sentences is the percentage of your text using passive voice. The lower the percentage, the better.
2. Flesch Reading Ease is a highly accurate formula developed by world leading readability expert Dr. Rudolph Flesch. As the name suggests, the formula is based on the number of long words you use, and tells you how easy a text is to read. The higher the score, the better.
3. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level relates to US Grade School reading ages. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an 8th grader can understand the document.
Now this doesn’t mean your reader has to be an 8th grader!
Bear in mind that your reader, who is very likely a busy person, has very little time (and patience!) in reading your copy. Asian readers, especially, hate to read something that is difficult to understand, or as they often say, “bombastic”. It is very unlikely that he or she will give it full attention if they have to check the dictionary each time they encounter a difficult word (e.g. “tenacious”, “exacerbate”, “scintillating”, “collegial”).
You get the idea.
So always make your text easy for busy (and impatient) people to understand what you’re trying to say – without them having to check the dictionary.
If your Flesch Reading Ease score is low (e.g. 50 or below), it’s mostly due to sentence length. Proof-read your document again and pick out any long sentences. Could you reduce them? Or split them in two, even three? Check for any unnecessarily long words and use an online thesaurus such as http://www.wordreference.com for a simpler meaning of that word.
For example, could you say “co-operative” instead of “collegial”, or “lucky”, instead of “auspicious”?
Remember, the more easy your copy is to read, the higher the chance you’ll get a response!