How To Make Your Content Readable
If like me you spend a lot of time reading from a screen you will appreciate well written content. And I’m not talking about potential eye-strain. This is about your content being readable. Whether it’s email, website text or a blog, reading from a screen can be difficult.
Let’s talk about blogs first, because generally they will be the longest and most frequently written. As well as being relevant and interesting, your blog posts have to be readable. If they’re not, then your audience probably won’t even finish reading them.
Know your audience
First of all, make sure your text is at the right level for your target audience. For example, when I prepare instruction manuals for system users I keep it simple. I write them as if every reader is a new user, and that way everybody will understand it. User Guides are a good example because they’re not just for trainees. Experienced users will refer to them too, especially if there is an area they’re not familiar with.
Blogging is the same. It’s easy for me to be enthusiastic about website testing because it’s my job. But if I’m going to write an article about how to improve your website, it has to be interesting and readable for my target audience.
Plan your paragraphs
When you’re starting any blog make it clear from the beginning what the topic is, then go into more detail as you continue writing. This helps the reader understand the concept of your article from the outset. Try not to make your paragraphs too long, and keep your sentences short as well.
How many times have you started to read something and had to start again because the sentences drag on? Sentences containing more than 20 words are considered to be too long. Also, if they are shorter there is less chance of you making grammatical errors.
Check out the example below. This paragraph is an extract from a Yoast.com blog post. I have edited it to show you how not to write a paragraph.
If you really want original pictures that fit your post you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture; one that can never be found on another blog and on top of that this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post so if you’re blogging about your day-to-day life taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs or for a company blog or a technical blog or anything else for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.
Even with a few commas in there to break up the sentences, it is still very difficult to follow. The sentences are far too long. Think about how you have a conversation. You don’t talk without taking a breath, so why would you expect someone to read without punctuation?
This is the original, unedited version of the same paragraph.
If you really want original pictures that fit your post, you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture, one that can never be found on another blog. On top of that, this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post. If you’re blogging about your day-to-day life, taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs. For a company blog or a technical blog, or for Yoast.com for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.
The other thing to consider is vocabulary. Try to limit the use of long words because if they have four or more syllables they are considered difficult to read. I have read articles where the author appears to have deliberately thrown in long words. It puts me off a bit because then I start to wonder whether they are just trying to be clever, or if they are trying to confuse me?
Of course, depending on your blog topic you might need to use advanced vocabulary and terminology. But if your paragraphs and sentences aren’t too long, then it should still be readable.
My business website is on WordPress, and there is a really useful tool that you can use to help create readable content. Yoast SEO checks the sentence and paragraph lengths as you’re writing. It also checks whether you are using enough transition words and sub-headings. These are all elements which make your content more readable.
It annoyed the hell out of me to start with, because I just could not grasp ‘transition words‘. But I’m fairly happy with this article at the minute, because I can see I have got two green traffic lights for SEO and Readability.
You probably use transition words quite naturally when you are speaking. However, it can be difficult to use them in the right place when you are writing. And when you are trying to include enough transition words to improve the readability, it’s very tempting to use the same ones. This is another ‘No-No’. Try to avoid repetition and using the same words over and over and over again.
Because I draft my blogs in a word or Google document, if I’m struggling to come up with an alternative word I use the inbuilt grammar and spell-checking tools. So to find a similar word I ‘right-click’ in my document and check out the synonyms. This will give you other examples of words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as the word you have highlighted. It’s really useful, and is yet another way to keep your readers happy, joyful and elated.
If you want your readers to get to the end of your blog post, make sure that your text is easy to read. Don’t make your text more difficult than you have to. Avoid long sentences and write clear paragraphs.
My top tip though is read whatever you have written out loud before you publish it. Reading on screen is difficult and it’s easy to miss spelling and grammatical errors. If you read it out loud it will also help you find sentences that are too long.
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