12 Strategies to Enhance the Readability of Written Content
To help you create content that is both engaging and easy to read, we've gathered insights from founders, CEOs, and content experts. From reading aloud to identify issues to focusing on length, flow, and presentation, discover 12 effective ways to improve the readability of your content, as shared by industry professionals.
- Read Aloud to Identify Issues
- Try Eye-Catching Titles and AI Tools
- Write Naturally, Avoid Jargon
- Prioritize People, Not Search Engines
- Create Audio Versions for Improvement
- Use Simple Sentences for Clarity
- Visit the Hemingway App for Readability
- Prioritize Clarity and Simplicity
- Optimize for the Flesch Reading Ease Score
- Apply the 7-Step Readability Formula
- Incorporate Valuable Visuals
- Focus On Length, Flow, and Presentation
Read Aloud to Identify Issues
Read your work aloud.
Did you take a deep breath and did you stumble over all the shiny adjectives? Did you get lost amid the dramatic pauses of an ellipsis or the suspended expectation of an em dash?
Too often, writers will craft long sentences to make themselves seem smarter. (That approach is popular among university students and resume-cover writers.) Stats, quotes, and actually knowing the material inside and out demonstrate a smart read. Long, complicated sentences hide intelligence. They don't highlight it.
I originally wrote that previous sentence with a semicolon:
Long complicated sentences hide intelligence; they don't highlight it.
But when I read it aloud, it was too long. And it moves away from the fact that every sentence should have ONE idea.
Long, complicated sentences hide intelligence. < One idea
They don't highlight it. < One idea
That sentence didn't seem long when I wrote it. Reading it aloud proved me wrong.
Try Eye-Catching Titles and AI Tools
According to my professional experience with content creation, the following steps should be followed to improve readability:
- Start with an eye-catching title: That is your chance to make a good first impression, so the title must be relevant, concise, and appealing.
- Proceed with clear subheadings, paragraphs, and bullets: Nobody likes to read a wall of text, so you should get straight to the point. There is no room for excessively long sentences, filled with more adjectives and terms than necessary.
- Use AI tools: They are wonderful assistants in enhancing your writing. Their best features include spell and grammar checks, rewriting, and even calculating readability scores.
Write Naturally, Avoid Jargon
So often, writers get caught up in corporate jargon to convey a sense of formality or professionalism. As a result, we publish terms like "utilize" and "henceforth"—two words I would never say in real life. And why? Who are we really impressing? This stuffy language leads to a clumsy reading experience and poor intelligibility.
The solution is simple: write the way you talk. Don't say "utilize", say "use". Don't say "henceforth", instead, say "from now on".
This is not dumbing down the content. It is making content accessible. By writing the way we talk, we reduce friction, improve readability, and open our communication to a wider range of audiences.
Prioritize People, Not Search Engines
I get it when you're a content or copywriter—you get a brief; it tells you the keywords, the word count, etc., and then you put together the content as best you can, hitting all of those markers.
This is not the best way to ensure content readability. Write your content with people in mind first, not a search engine, and I believe you will naturally write in a much more readable format.
Create Audio Versions for Improvement
A common readability tip is to read your content out loud. That's a good start, but it permits you to allow mistakes to slip through the cracks. When you create an audio version of your content to live on the website or as a podcast, you force yourself to get it right. It's not always easy, but it absolutely improves your content.
Use Simple Sentences for Clarity
To convey multiple ideas, it is advisable to use multiple sentences. Many beginners make the mistake of striving to craft extraordinary sentences. However, being a talented writer doesn't require you to construct awe-inspiring and distinctive sentences.
In fact, it is more effective, efficient, and rewarding to write many simple sentences, each communicating a single idea. By connecting these ideas with an ample number of straightforward sentences, you will be astonished by the remarkable quality of your writing, all without the need for embellishment.
Visit the Hemingway App for Readability
One top tip I always recommend as a copywriter is the Hemingway app. In fact, it's not even really an app, but simply a site you can visit for free in your browser. So you don't even need to download anything, and they don't require you to fill in a form to gain access either.
It's free to use. You simply copy and paste your text into the text field, and it will give you some simple measurements for readability. It will give you a numbered grade (for blogs, we recommend aiming for Grade 8 or 9), as well as highlighting things like hard-to-read sentences and the use of the passive voice. It's fab!
Prioritize Clarity and Simplicity
One effective way to improve the readability of your content is to use clear and concise language. Avoid jargon, complex terminology, and unnecessary fluff. Instead, opt for simple and straightforward sentences that are easy to understand.
Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones, and use subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists to enhance readability. Incorporate ample white space and use a legible font size and style.
Consider your target audience and adjust your writing tone and style accordingly. By prioritizing clarity and simplicity, you can make your content more accessible and engaging to readers.
Optimize for the Flesch Reading Ease Score
The Flesch Reading Ease score is invaluable for improving the readability of your content. It calculates readability based on sentence length and word syllables, producing a score that shows how easy or difficult a text is to read.
To optimize for this, aim for shorter sentences and simpler words. A higher Flesch Reading Ease score often correlates to more accessible and engaging content. Online readers appreciate clear, concise, and easily digestible content.
This improves user experience and enhances your SEO ranking as search engines prioritize easily readable content.
Apply the 7-Step Readability Formula
We have a 7-step formula for improving content, and readability is one of the biggest steps. Let's say we have a new client and we need to optimize the current content first. These are the things we improve first:
1. Correct use of Headers
2. Paragraphs are not longer than 3-5 sentences or 200 words
3. Use at least two bullet point lists
4. Add unique images, preferably with charts and graphs that represent numbers that are mentioned in the content
5. Add a TLDR at the beginning of an article
It's a pretty easy and fun process because there is a lot to gain from these simple changes!
Incorporate Valuable Visuals
One of the most effective ways to improve blog content readability is by adding tons of visuals to your content.
However, two common mistakes people make are adding stock images or illustrations just for the sake of adding visuals, and another one is not adding visuals throughout the page. For example, if you’re writing a blog post, consider how you can add visuals (screenshots, charts, GIFs, videos, etc.) to complement your existing content. This way, you can improve readability and dwell time on your page.
Also, by adding visuals throughout the page, users must see one visual element in one or two scrolls on the page. This will help readers to scan the page and pull out the important information from the page faster.
Focus On Length, Flow, and Presentation
Sentence length, flow, and presentation are the three most important aspects of the readability of content. Make sure your content is ready in these three areas and you'll find it so much more readable.
1) To fix the sentence length, check for any fluff words or phrases that are not crucial to the overall sentence meaning. Remove these and rewrite your sentence to wrap it up within 20 words.
2) Ensure that there's a nice, semantic flow between your different sentences and sections. If a sentence stands out awkwardly, you need to place it somewhere else or remove it altogether.
3) Use subheadings, bullet points, and whitespace to make your content more scannable. Break up big chunks of paragraphs into smaller ones. Ideally, you should not keep over 4-5 sentences per paragraph.
Combine all these 3 pointers together to make it easier for your audience to consume your content.
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