When I’m speaking to clients, I tell them they need to be writing readable content if they want to connect with people. Their messages should never contain a long, difficult word when the simple version would be much better. For example:

  • Fugacious means fleeting, hard to capture
  • Precipitation means showers, drizzle, rain, rainfall
  • Somnambulism means sleepwalking
  • Ameliorate means improve
  • Ambulatory means moveable
  • Clandestine means secret.

When writing readable content it’s important not to use three words when one will do. Although, it’s not good to reduce a phrase to just one or two words if the person reading the message will not be able to make sense of it. Remember you are aiming for good readable content.

Read sentences carefully because some phrases can be left out completely or the sentence can be rewritten. For example:

In terms of the marketing strategy, we intend to use a good cross section of exposure…. The alternatives are… We intend to use a good cross section of exposure in our marketing strategy. Or… Our marketing strategy will give us a good cross section of exposure.

Your aim is to have good readable content and using plain English will make all the difference.

Sentence Length for Readable Content

Studies have shown the average length is between 15 and 20 words: 25 maximum, so don’t make your sentences too long.

When writing advertising and marketing material write sentences of between 10 and 16 words, and cap the length at 20 words for formal writing, procedures manuals and other instruction material. Tailor the sentence length to the message.

If you’ve written sentences with 30, 35 or 40 words, rewrite the sentence. Usually, you can take out, “and, the, that and but”, add a full stop/period and start a new sentence.

The longer the sentence, the more concentration is needed to understand the message.

Paragraph Length

The same rule applies to the length of paragraphs. If they are too long they will look like a solid block of text and readers may think the message is too hard to read and won’t bother.

Keep paragraphs to between two and four sentences to make them easy on the eye and readable.

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