How to write content people will read.
Understanding the Flesch Reading Ease formula can help you learn if inefficient writing is costing you. Why? Because complex writing can kill your sales. It can cost you potential customers. It can hurt your website’s traffic.
The truth is, most people like to read plain English – they don’t want to read cliches or technical jargon unless absolutely necessary.
Google understands this too. Even if you sell complex products or services, you need to especially careful of mind-numbing, complicated writing.
Here are the signs:
- Using ten words to say something that could be said in three
- Using perplexing language for common ideas
- Becoming redundant in an effort to be precise
- Becoming verbose when trying to be accurate
- Sounding pretentious in an attempt to be interesting
your readers’ eyes glaze over,
or worse –
they leave your page,
delete your email
They never read your message.
Not one word.
When writing web content, blog posts or emails, plain English is a necessity. It must be easy to read, understand and use.
How To Write Content People Will Actually Read
Reading ease is important no matter the subject – even when writing technical information. If you’re explaining a technical subject, use simple sentences and keep plenty of white space on the page. When possible, replace complicated words with simplified words and avoid unnecessary jargon or acronyms.
That doesn’t mean you should use simple words at the expense of being accurate. It also doesn’t mean you should delete important information just for the sake of making it easier to read. Don’t sacrifice what’s necessary for your audience.
It’s about writing for your readers. Not too complex, yet not so simplistic that it fails to answer their questions.
That’s why your content should be direct and straightforward, yet streamlined. Is there an everyday word to replace that fancy word? Can you eliminate unnecessary clauses in your sentences?
That’s where the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Tests come in. They give you an objective assessment of your content. They are the most commonly used formulas and generally considered to be the most accurate tests available.
First developed in 1948 by Rudolph Flesch, the Flesch Reading Ease test estimates the reading difficulty of any written material. In 1975, the U.S. Department of Defense wanted to evaluate the difficulty level of its technical manuals, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test was created to make it more useful for the military.
Fletch-Kincaid Readability Tests eventually became standardly used in the United States Military. In most of the United States, it is now commonly required that reading material such as insurance policies and other legal documents use plain English (8th or 9th-grade level).
Here’s how the tests calculate readability:
Flesch Reading Ease Formula
206.835 – (1.015 x Total Words / Total Sentences) – (84.6 x Total Syllables / Total Words)
Here’s how the results are interpreted:
0 to 30 – College graduate level. Very difficult.
30 to 50 – College student level. Difficult.
50 to 60 – 10th grade to 12th-grade level. Relatively difficult.
60 to 70 – 8th grade to 9th-grade level. Plain English.
70 to 80 – 7th-grade level. Relatively easy.
80 to 90 – 6th-grade level. Easy. Conversational.
90 to 100 – 5th-grade level. Very easy.
The lower the score, the more complex the writing. The higher the score, the easier it is to read. Word length and sentence length determine complexity. For example, Dr. Suess books would have a score of at least 100. Their short sentences and one syllable words create some of the easiest reading.
Generally, a score of 60-70 is considered to be the standard level for most web content.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test
Widely used in education, this test expresses results in terms of grade level. This helps when trying to estimate the best educational materials for certain groups of people, such as students.
0.39 (Total Words / Total Sentences) + 11.8 (Total Syllables / Total Words) – 15.59
The results are converted into an American school grade level – a score of 9 would be understandable by readers who have a reached a 9th grade level of education.
How Flesch Readability Impacts SEO
While we don’t know exactly how Google evaluates readability, the Flesch Reading Ease Score can help you clearly know if your text is too difficult or too easy. Reading ease impacts your SEO either directly or indirectly. Bottom line – if people leave your page because they’re bored or find it to be a waste of time, it will lower your ranking.
Tools That Measure Your Content’s Readability
The good news is you don’t need to worry about doing the math to measure your content’s readability. There are several tools that will do the job quickly and easily.
If you use Microsoft Word, you can enable readability statistics to see a snapshot of your content’s statistics. Click the File tab. Then click on Options. Select Proofing. In the area that says, When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, select the box that says, Check grammar with spelling. Finally, select Show Readability Statistics.
Once you’ve enabled this feature, Word will display your readability statistics after each spell check.
How to use Microsoft Word’s readability statistics
Yoast SEO Plugin
If you’re using WordPress, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to measure your content’s readability.
There are also free online readability checkers, such as this one from webpagefx. You simply enter your site’s URL, and you’ll receive a readability report for your website.
How To Improve Your Flesch Reading Ease Score
To ensure your content is readable and understandable, always keep your target audience in mind. Each audience has its own needs. What problem are you solving? What information do they need to know? This will help you evaluate what to include and how you will write it.
It’s important to stay organized and keep your paragraphs concise. Your writing should flow easily from one topic to the next. Use familiar, appropriate vocabulary. Strike a balance between overly complicated and overly simplified language. Avoid using acronyms or industry jargon.
Thoughtful page design is also important. Avoid large blocks of heavy text. Keep plenty of white space and use headings to break up each topic. Use easy to read fonts in a large enough size. Avoid using all capital letters.
Keep in mind the Flesch Reading Ease Tests have their limitations. No readability measure takes into account the subject you’re writing about. It can’t tell you if you’ve done a good job conveying the information clearly. Only a human being can tell you that. If you’ve successfully explained a technical or complicated subject, your Flesch Reading Ease score won’t necessarily reflect that you took a complex subject and made sense out of it.
Readability tools should be used as guidelines rather than rules. You also need to use some judgment.
Use the checklist below to improve the readability score of your blog posts, emails, manuals and other content.
A professional copywriter can add the human judgment that’s necessary to improve the readability of your blog posts. Let me take care of it for you. Check out my blog post writing service.
I’ve assembled some press release samples and some of the best expert advice on how to get media attention with a well-written press release. Think the press release is a thing of the past? Think again. Press releases are still the standard way to communicate with media outlets about an event, a person or topic of interest. Their purpose: to make a story go viral. Don’t overlook this valuable tool.
A press release will help you get the word out and boost your content marketing efforts. But you need to write them well – so they do their job.
Here’s what the experts have to say:
1. Press Release Samples: Learn The Do’s and Don’ts
A 2016 Forbes article tells us the process of writing a press release is “simple but not easy.” There’s a difference between press releases that do the job and those that don’t. What makes the difference is the intent when writing the press release.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “What’s in it for me?” This holds true with press releases. You must offer a reason for a journalist to publish your story.
On average, reporters can receive as many as 500 to 1,000 emails a day. That’s why your headline must state exactly what the press release is about. In fact, one journalist states he deletes emails after about .5 seconds when reading the subject line.
A previous Forbes article offers some do’s and don’ts from journalists:
- Attach the press release in a Word or pdf document.
- Include the press release as a hyperlink to a press release posted online.
- Use all caps – it looks like your shouting.
- Use dense and tedious language.
- Confuse with acronyms.
- Oversell with words like “groundbreaking,” unless it truly is that.
- Send the same press release many times to the same journalist.
- “Speak to everybody and appeal to nobody.”
- Get straight to the point in your subject line and in your first paragraph.
- Address the reporter personally.
- Spell their name correctly.
- Speak directly. Say what it is. Say why it’s timely and important.
- Share other resources, such as links to websites with more information.
- Make the key takeaway clear.
- Send relevant information. A journalist who covers science and technology does not want a press release about real estate.
- Provide context to the story so the reader understands what it really means.
- Show that you understand the publication and the type of stories they cover.
- Provide detailed information on who to contact and make sure you will be able to reply immediately.
2. Follow PR Web’s Editorial Best Practices & Press Release Samples
To demonstrate, the Editorial Guidelines for News Releases over at PRWeb give us best practices, complete with press release samples. When writing your press release, follow these guidelines to make sure you do it right:
Just because something is happening does not mean it’s news. Make sure your announcement is timely and relevant. State the key point clearly in the headline.
Avoid using personal pronouns such as “you,” “I,” or “we” as this implies the content is an advertisement rather than a news release. In the same way, refrain from making exaggerated product/service claims, or using adjectives such as “amazing.” Any forms of hype diminish the credibility of your announcement.
If you’re writing about legal matters such as court cases or criminal matters, you’ll need to reference case numbers, complaint numbers, etc.
Make sure to include a valid phone number and email address of the company issuing the press release. Don’t use an email address that you don’t check often. If a journalist contacts you about your news release, you’ll want to respond right away.
You must have permission from a company executive. For example, if you are an independent representative of a network marketing company, you’ll need to obtain written consent from a company executive before distributing a press release.
Your press release must be between 300 and 800 words. Stay within the standard length for a press release. Anything that is too short or too long might not be indexed well in search engines. In the same way, limit the length of your Summary Paragraph to one or two sentences.
It must be free of spelling and grammar errors. Proofread everything.
It must be written entirely in English. Make sure to define any industry jargon or acronyms so the reader can understand what you’re talking about.
Include your business name as the news source in the headline. This is you or your company, not a marketing firm or other agency acting on your behalf. You must state clearly how you or your business relates to the announcement.
3. Use The Correct Press Release Format
The correct style and formatting for your press release are important so that journalists view it as credible. We again turn to the experts at PR Web on how to format a press release. Here’s what’s included in a properly written press release:
Your headline needs to clearly state what your announcement is about so it captures attention within .5 seconds. Keep the length to 170 characters or less so that is clear and concise.
This paragraph should be italicized. Briefly explain what the release is about. It should be no more than one or two sentences. This is where you answer, “What is the main point?” and “Why is this newsworthy?”
Location and Date Line
You’ll open the press release with a new paragraph below the summary. It always begins with the city and state of your business and the date of the announcement – in the month, day, year format.
Following the location and date, on the same line, add a dash with a space on each side. Then begin writing your announcement. It will be about 2-3 paragraphs, single-spaced, with one line between each paragraph. Each paragraph should be just a few sentences and cover one topic.
Here you’ll provide a basic overview of the facts about your company.
Include the contact information of who is issuing the press release. Specify the name of the person, phone number, email address, links to social media and company website URL.
4. Use Press Release Samples and Templates As Your Guide
To simplify the process, here are some press release samples and templates you can use when writing your own press releases:
Fit Small Business provides a free downloadable Word/Google Doc template for press releases with easy to follow instructions.
Microsoft offers a free professional press release template.
From general news releases to evergreen news releases, to press releases for content marketing, PR Newswire shares press release examples for a variety of types of news releases.
Press release samples make it easy. Here’s an easy to follow basic sample press release template.
How to write a press release
All things considered, press releases can be highly effective for instant exposure – when you write them effectively. If you want to get the message out to the world about your business, new book, new product, upcoming event, don’t overlook the all-important press release.
I recommend PR Web’ Press Release Distribution Service where they help you reach 30,000 journalists, bloggers, and influencers. (I do make a small referral fee for recommending their services.)
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