I received an interesting email from the assistant editor of the television network I write for. I was told I was a fairly difficult writer. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought Rebecca was professional; Rebecca doesn’t come across as a difficult writer; and I got the impression Rebecca meets her deadlines.” Of course, I’m professional! It’s my writing that’s fairly difficult to read. BTW: I almost fell out of my chair when I read that my writing is fairly difficult to read.
According to the assistant editor, “the formula uses a 100-point system based on the number of syllables per word and words per sentence.” An article that scores close to 100 is easier to read; the closer to 0 means readers will need a dictionary and other reference materials to help them understand the content. Adapted from Flesch, R. (1949). The art of readable writing. New York: Harper. p.149.
I had no idea that the network is using The Flesch Reading Ease Readability Formula. I never heard of this formula; I never knew it even existed. Apparently, “The Flesch Reading Ease Formula was created by Rudolph Flesch in 1948. He was an author, writing consultant, and supporter of the Plain English Movement. Rudolph earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University and advocated the return of phonics.” Who knew?
FYI: A score of 70 is estimated for readers with an eighth or ninth grade education. A score of 100 means content can be understood by readers with a fourth grade education. This isn’t ideal but it is what it is.
This was very fascinating to me, and I decided to test one of my articles from Savvy Writing Careers with Rebecca. I used the free online readability test from Readability Formulas.com and the article I chose scored an 80. It scored an 80 because it was the ‘typical’ list type of blog post which is very easy to read.
BTW: I was told by a writing coach to write my screenplays for a ‘general audience’ that has at least an eighth grade education.
How to Stop Writing Fairly Difficult Content
1. Write more list and ‘how to’ articles and blog posts.
2. Always write content for the target audience; make sure you know who the target audience is.
3. Most people ‘scan’ articles instead of reading them. Keep blog posts and articles to the point and use shorter sentences.
4. Forget about using 50 cent and $1 words — use simple language
5. Use bold headings and sentences, bullet points and blurbs.
FYI: Did you know that newspaper reporters write their articles to be understood by readers with at least a fifth grade education?
Some writers may be shaking their heads from reading this blog post, but the fact-of-the-matter is this is reality right now. Some readers aren’t that skilled in English and grammar or they don’t have the time to read lengthy blog posts or articles. Always keep your target audience in mind when you write and most importantly, keep your freelance writing clients’ target audience in mind when you write.
*Statistics on this blog post are as follows:
Passive sentences 14%
Flesch Reading Ease 63.2
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.5 (readers with at least a 7th or 8th grade education can understand this content)
How difficult is your content to read?
- How to Check the Readability of Your Writing With Microsoft Word (imittcopy.com)
- Microsoft Word’s Readability and AutoSummarizing Features (theeclecticreadingteacher.com)
- Enable Readability Statistics In Microsoft Word (ghacks.net)
- Can You Read Me Now? How to Make Your Copy More Accessible (comprehension.prsa.org)
- When Freelance Writers “Can’t Write” This is What They Do (savvy-writer.com)
- Welcome to Savvy-Writing Careers with Rebecca (savvywritingcareers.wordpress.com)
- Writing without the Use of Your Five Senses (savvy-writer.com)