Readability can be the difference between a sale and losing custom to your competitors.

No, really.

Have you ever put something down because you couldn’t connect with the writing style?

Maybe you weren’t sure why, but you just didn’t like it?

The same thing could happen to your potential customers.

So what do you do?

We all think we know what readability is, and how to write for it.

But when it comes to putting that advice into practice, how many of us choose what’s easier for us to write over what’s easier for people to read?

How many of us take advantage of short – sometimes uncomfortably short – paragraphs and sentences?

How many of us break the rules of grammar so that something looks better on a mobile screen?

How many of us write in a way that’s conversational and memorable over corporate and formal?

Yeah, not as many people as we think. 

Most people, in fact, break this rule all the time time. They have long sentences and paragraphs that are full of complicated words and that over explain or oversell their point. If you look at this paragraph on a mobile device, it’s already starting to look long, isn’t it? It looks disproportionate compared to the rest of the post, too. 

Our eyes get tired easily when we read on a computer or a mobile device. Readability is therefore crucial.

Here are some other ways you can improve your content’s readability:

Break things up with bullet points

I love a good bullet point. They’re a great way to summarise key points at the end of a section, or even at the end of your post.

Use images to give the mind a break from walls of text

If long text is written in a fun way, it’s not so tedious to read.

But it never hurts to add in some images to break things up.

So long as the image is relevant. Don’t add an image in for the sake of adding in an image.

Oh look, an image added for the sake of adding an image!

Oh look, an image added for the sake of adding an image! (Can you not do image captions on LinkedIn? That’s a shame.)

Use subheadings that summarise your key points

Most people won’t read all of your post (sorry), so having subheadings that summarise your key points ensures that they still get the gist of the post. They can then read any sections that they feel are most relevant to them.

Use the right language

I’m not just talking about writing how your prospects speak – although if you aren’t doing that already, you should be – I mean putting real thought into how you use language.

The way that I would write about something is different to how my partner would write about something, or my mum or nan.

Sometimes it’s generational, sometimes it’s to do with the circles that we run in, or our culture or how we were brought up.

We all have our own ways of communicating, which is why it’s important you know how your target audience speaks.

Some things to ask yourself:

  • Are there are words or phrases unique to your target audience?
  • Are there any words or phrases they would definitely not use?
  • Where can you find the latest examples of how they communicate?
  • Is your knowledge out of date? This is particularly relevant if your target audience is children or teenagers, since what they like/dislike say/don’t say is constantly changing.

Structure matters

Keep your sentences short.

One point per sentence.

No more than three sentences per paragraph.

Remember the mobile readers, I beg of you!

Use simple language

If there’s an easier way to explain something, go for that way instead of the complicated way.

(Hint: there’s always an easier way).

The more simple your language is, the less isolating it is.

That means that people can self-segment.

If your content is well-written, you won’t lose a good prospect because they’re too tired to trawl your site to find what you’re about.

People who don’t fit will understand your product isn’t for them but might like your style so pass on your content to someone it is relevant to.

Just because you’re a business that doesn’t mean you have to be boring.

Whatever your business, your content should be relevant and it should resonate with your target audience.

What are your best tips on writing for readability?

Originally published on LinkedIn.