It’s been said that what’s written without effort is read without pleasure, and nowhere could these words be truer than on the Internet.
Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article about your company’s products or crafting other web content, using the right words in the right way is what you need to do every time you communicate with your audience.
Even seemingly minor points can make a difference. Research has found that readers spend 80% of their time viewing the left-half of their screens.
But there’s more to making successful blog posts than just choosing where to place your content. Read on to learn how to improve readability and drive more traffic to your website.
What is Blog Readability?
Blog readability refers to how easy it is for someone to read you content.
Do you communicate with your audience simply and clearly? Do you provide your customers with the information they need? Do you use words they understand? In answering their questions, do you also provide an enjoyable experience?
These are some of the questions you need to ask when seeking to improve content readability. If any of the answers are no or you’re not sure, then it’s time to take a closer look at your blog posts to check for poor readability.
Aspects of Content Readability
There are three elements you should remember to improve readability: the words your audience reads, how those words are presented and the ways in which they could read your content.
The Words Your Audience Reads
Who are your audience members? What are their needs and wants? Would they, for example, be interested in reading a blog, or would they prefer a list of FAQs? If you could meet a ‘typical’ member of your audience, what kind of language would he or she use?
Having a very clear linguistic picture of your audience — the vocabulary they use to express themselves — is critical to making your content readable. If you can speak their language, you can connect with them.
And connecting with your audience is what good content is all about.
How Words Are Presented
As with other forms of communication, it’s not just what you say that matters but also how you say it. The most carefully crafted blog post, for example, won’t register with readers if it doesn’t look and feel right — if the form, in other words, doesn’t match the content.
That’s where the visual aspects of your content come in. Have you thought about the font you’ll use, as well as the font size and color? Will your readers be happy to trudge their way through large paragraphs, or will short paragraphs be more appropriate?
Will images help you communicate with your audience? If so, which images will you choose, and how will you present them?
It’s equally important to avoid writing long paragraphs that look like walls of text. The way we read has changed — more on that later — and people don’t want dense blocks of information. With that in mind, write clear paragraphs that consist of a few sentences at most.
As important as words are, the way they’re presented could make all the difference.
If you think that people read online content the same way they read a novel or a magazine article, think again.
With more and more readers glued to their phones and other mobile devices, it’s only natural that our reading habits have changed. Scanning content for key information instead of reading an article from beginning to end is the norm now.
If your content is well presented, chances are your audience will scan it in a layer-cake pattern. If you’re really lucky, they may actually read all of your content, known as the commitment pattern. But if they’re like most people, their eyes might trace an F-pattern.
How to Measure Blog Readability
There are a number of readability tools that can evaluate your writing, and they generally employ the Flesch-Kincaid readability score.
The Flesch-Kincaid score ranges from 1-100, and a text with good readability usually scores around 60 or higher.
Here’s our list of the some of the most popular tools for assessing blog readability :
- SEOpressor not only assesses the readability of content but also its SEO metrics.
- Readable uses algorithms to gauge more detailed aspects of your content, such as the use of adverbs, clichés and the passive voice.
- The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress and Shopify also offers readability feedback on blog posts. Yoast SEO notes that the readability analysis checks whether a general audience is able to read either your blog posts or product pages.
- In terms of pure writing tools, Microsoft Word has a readability statistics feature that will provide feedback on a document’s reading level.
There isn’t a tool that can comprehensively assess all forms of content. But if you focus on the points that may be holding your content back, then choose a tool whose analysis considers such points, you’ll be well on your way to improving your writing skills.
10 Tips to Improve Readability
Now that you’re familiar with the different aspects of your content, along with how to measure its readability, here are 10, more detailed, tips to improve your writing style.
1. Use Simple Words
Although ‘utilize’ and ‘use’ mean the same thing, it’s fair to say that the latter is the word most people are familiar with. And if people are familiar with a word, then it’s likely they’ll also understand it.
Because of this, unless a specific word is usually favored by your readers over other synonyms, it’s best to stick with common simple words. Simple words, after all, are one of the factors that determine a good readability score with the Flesch-Kincaid readability algorithm.
2. Use Transition Words
Where appropriate, use words such as ‘however’, ‘in contrast’ and ‘for example’. They help guide your readers from one section of your content to another, which provides your readers with a pleasant reading experience. Compare the two sentences below:
- Without a transition: The software is easy to install and use. It requires regular updates.
- With a transition: The software is easy to install and use. However, it requires regular updates.
3. Write Short Sentences
Although varying sentence length is one of the hallmarks of good writing, overall, it’s better to write short sentences. Long sentences can be difficult to follow and, therefore, to understand. They can also take up space that would be better used for other content.
4. Capture Your Reader’s Attention
A piece of good writing is like a bird’s nest made of hooks. Once your opening section has captured your readers’ attention, it then leads them deeper into your content, keeping them focused on your message.
With such content, your readers never wonder where they are; in fact, with the knowledge you’ve given them, they’re simply more informed and, no doubt, grateful for that.
5. Write in the Active Voice
Although there are situations where writing in the passive voice may be appropriate, in general, favor the active voice. It places your subject in the center of your audience’s attention and tends to produce short sentences, which makes your content easier to read.
6. Write the Way You Speak
Avoid using the stilted English that is common in many official publications. Instead, your writing should have a conversational tone. Such a writing style will afford better readability to your content.
7. Choose an Appropriate Font and Font Size
Choose a font that suits your content. But whichever font you choose, remember that sans-serif fonts are best, as such fonts are easier to read than those with serifs.
Font size is another important matter. To provide your readers with a readable text, a font size of around 16 pixels is recommended for body text. The size for headings and subheadings should be slightly larger.
8. Format Your Content
Your content should be organized as well as it is written. Break it up into short paragraphs of three to four sentences, then include plenty of white space between those paragraphs.
Remember to keep your headings and subheadings uniform. Ensure that the text in a sub-heading, for example, is of the same font size as the text in other sub-headings.
The same applies for bolded headings and subheadings. Such uniformity will help your readers to scan your paragraphs for what they need.
Where appropriate, bullet points and numbered lists can be another way to organize your content. They can help your readers find information that would perhaps be missed if it were located in a paragraph.
9. Use Relevant Images
Like white space, relevant images can help your content be more readable. They can also expand on the information you’ve provided in your written content.
Whichever images you choose, however, ensure that there’s a balance between them and your written content. There’s no universally recommended image-text ratio, but it’s common for there to be more text than images — usually in the 60-40 split. If, however, your content needs to pass spam filters, a 70-30 or 80-20 split might be best.
Another thing to remember with images is their combined size. According to research, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and high-resolution images are notorious for slowing down the loading of a website.
10. Aim for Efficient Scanning
As mentioned, readers nowadays skim-read or scan online content instead of reading it from beginning to end.
A common form of scanning is the F-pattern in which a reader traces the letter F by reading the first several sentences on a page before moving down its left side, then reading several more sentences before moving further down the left margin of the page.
The problem with this pattern is that it can indicate poor quality content, with readers possibly missing important information from one paragraph to another.
In contrast, layer-cake pattern scans indicate clearly identified headings and, therefore, readable content. Aim to convert your readers from F-scanners to layer-cake scanners.
Writing good content is as much an art as it is a science — you’ll need both accurate data and intuitive knowledge of your readers.
But by striking a balance between the two, then crafting your content accordingly, you’ll be well on your way to connecting with your audience.