Blog Go Back Back

How to Improve Readability of Your Blogs

Your web page has about 7 seconds to grab your reader’s attention, and your latest blog post is no different. So let’s say you’re successful in piquing their interest—you’ve still got to keep their attention (and that’s easier said than done). Luckily, this can be done when you improve readability.

But what does that mean? In this article, I’ll break down what it means to improve readability and how specifically you can achieve this through various readability tests. 

Your may wonder if you even need a blog, let alone an inbound marketing strategy. The answer is always yes. Luckily, you don’t need to be a terrific writer to garner a large amount of views on your blog. All you need is a few tricks to help a wider audience understand what you’re writing about.

So what are some easy ways to improve the readability of your blog?

Tip 1: Break it Up

When it comes to online writing, using large, cumbersome chunks of text is one of the fastest ways to lose someone’s interest. Even if the words and sentences themselves are not difficult to read, large blocks of text have the tendency to scare most readers. Let’s take Nathaniel Hawthorne’s notoriously cumbersome book, The Scarlet Letter, to demonstrate this concept. (Is it obvious I have a degree in English?)

Below, is an excerpt from the first chapter (don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed on this):

The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam; and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes. She was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace which is now recognized as its indication. And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison. Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped. It may be true that, to a sensitive observer, there was some thing exquisitely painful in it. Her attire, which indeed, she had wrought for the occasion in prison, and had modelled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity. But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer—so that both men and women who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time—was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.

And here is the same exact content, just broken up:

The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam; and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.

She was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace which is now recognized as its indication. And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison.

Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped.

It may be true that, to a sensitive observer, there was some thing exquisitely painful in it. Her attire, which indeed, she had wrought for the occasion in prison, and had modelled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity.

But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer—so that both men and women who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time—was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.

Even though Hawthorne’s writing can be fairly difficult for the average reader, breaking the text up into smaller sections can help improve readability.

Children’s stories can also be made complicated without proper spacing. Let’s try Dr. Seuss for example:

Could you, would you, with a goat? I would not, could not with a goat! Would you, could you, on a boat? I could not, would not, on a boat. I will not, will not, with a goat. I will not eat them in the rain. Not in the dark! Not in a tree! Not in a car! You let me be! I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I will not eat them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere! I do not like green eggs and ham! I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.

To avoid your readers leaving your blog a few sentences in, improve readability by keeping paragraphs no longer than four sentences.

RELATED: CHOOSING THE RIGHT KEYWORD FOR BLOGGING

Tip 2: Use Plain Language

While breaking up text helps even if the content is complicated, it’s best to communicate with your readers in a clear and concise manner. Blogs are meant to be educational, but not in a way that makes your readers feel like they need a teacher to understand your writing.

Using plain language will help you convey your text in a way that’s easily accessible to a wide audience. And considering that the main purpose of a business blog is to reach as many people as possible, wouldn’t you want to write it with that in mind?

Don’t worry, using plain language doesn’t mean you have to give up your artistic flair. Nor does it mean that your posts will sound elementary. Implementing plan language simply means that if you have the choice between “challenging” and “arduous,” you should use “challenging” more often.

But variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to sprinkle some colorful vocabulary throughout your blogs. Just don’t get too carried away with it.

The best part? Using plain language doesn’t just help people better understand your blogs—it can also help improve sales!

Tip 3: Use Active Voice

This is probably a writing tip you’ve heard since grade school, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Active voice is almost always easier to read than passive voice, which is why it’s the preferred sentence structure.

Consider the following sentences:

Johnny eats the apple.

The apple is eaten by Johnny.

It’s clear that the first sentence is more straightforward and leaves less room for interpretation. This will help you audience better synthesize information and consider you a thought leader.

Now that I’ve gone over some of the main ways to make your writing more accessible, here are some tools you can use to check the readability.

While there are various formulas for determining readability, I will discuss the following: Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning Fog and SMOG. Each test yields a number and corresponding age, signifying the average age of comprehension. These tests can help you adjust your writing in order to ensure that it reaches a wide audience while still remaining professional.

RELATED: CAPTURING ATTENTION WITH STRONG BLOG HEADLINES

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease

The most common of the three, the Flesch-Kincaid test, was developed by the Navy in the 1970s and set the precedent for readability scores. It has become so ubiquitous that it is built into various writing programs, including Microsoft Word.

Your score is comprised of two numbers. The first is a number between 1 and 100, and the second is the American grade level associated with that number. For example, a score between 60 and 70 is deemed comprehensible for 12 to 13-year-old students. Bottom line—the higher your score, the easier it is to read.

Goal Score: 65

Gunning Fog Index

While the Flesch-Kincaid is the standard test, the Gunning Fog Index is a nice second opinion. The score is determined by how many three-syllabic words are used as well as sentence length. With this tool, you will only get one number (which you want to keep low) that also represents a grade number. A score of 7, for example, means that students between 12 and 13 should be able to read it with ease.

Goal Score: 7

SMOG Formula

The least popular method for determining readability of the three, the SMOG Formula, is perhaps the most thorough test of the three. Instead of using syllables to measure difficulty, SMOG uses the dictionary’s rating to determine the level of readability. Click here for the full explanation as well as the formula used to determine your score. Similar to Gunning Fog, a lower score is ideal.

Goal Score: 7

While it is not pertinent to use all of these tools to determine how comprehensible your writing is, it is good to get a second opinion if the Flesch-Kincaid score seems a bit off.
Using these online writing tools and comparing the results will help you produce professional and readable writing for the web.