Reel them in with readability

Yamaha Marine Group communicator makes message 164.57% easier to read

When Austin Roebuck needed to get the word out about how a new bill in Congress would affect his audience of fishing fanatics, he first tried a traditional message. But it weighed in at 25.4 on the Flesch Reading Ease scale — or very hard to read.

Writing for readability

Catch your readers when you cut the bait into smaller, easier-to-consume pieces. Image by Carl Heyerdahl

But then the PR manager for Yamaha Marine Group edited and revised his piece at our most recent Cut Through the Clutter Master Class. By the end of the workshop, he had increased readability to 67.2, making his piece 165% easier to read.

Write by numbers.

To do so, Austin:

  • Cut message length by 60%, from a two-minute read to less than a one-minute read.
  • Reduced paragraph length by 71%, from an average 51 words per paragraph to 15. Because people skip long paragraphs, he likely increased reading as well.
  • Streamlined sentences by 53%, from 26 words per sentence to 12. Because people struggle to understand long sentences, he likely increased comprehension as well.
  • Whittled down words by 11%, from 5.4 characters to 4.8. Because people perceive long words to take too much effort, he likely increased reading as well.

In the process, Austin reduced his Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level by 58%, from 16 to 6.7.

Before: 16th grade level

Here’s where Austin started:

Congress has best opportunity in years to reform fisheries management in federal waters

In early April, a bipartisan group of House members joined together to propose sweeping legislation that if passed will improve the way Americans enjoy our natural marine resources. Led by Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017,” or the Modern Fish Act, will address the challenges that have plagued millions of Americans and businesses for far too long. Recreational and commercial fishing are entirely different pursuits and should be managed differently. Yet, years of misguided federal policy have lumped the two together, resulting in damaging consequences for America’s saltwater recreational anglers. The bill would go a long way toward bringing management of federal fisheries into the 21st century.

The Modern Fish Act calls for updating antiquated federal fisheries policies that were never designed to manage recreational fishing. The bill incorporates many priorities of the recreational fishing community including allowing alternative management for recreational fishing, reexamining fisheries allocations, smartly rebuilding fishery stocks, establishing exemptions for annual catch limits and improving recreational data collection.

One example of fishery mismanagement is the recent announcement of the 2017 Gulf red snapper fishing season. This year, the season will be the shortest in history, a mere 3 days — taking place from June 1st to the 3rd. Boaters and anglers across the country are furious, and with good reason. There are a variety of factors that have led to this absurdly short fishing season, but once again, it ultimately boils down ineffective management of recreational fishing.

PLEASE Urge Your U.S. Representative to Support Saltwater Fisheries Regulation Reform

As anglers and advocates for the recreational fishing industry, the most productive thing we can do is to tell the federal government to fix their saltwater fisheries management policies, and to fix them now! The recently introduced Modern Fish Act, will help us do just that! If you’re mad about red snapper or any of the other unnecessary restrictions anglers are dealing with, tell your Congressmen to pass the Modern Fish Act today!

The Modern Fish Act will provide a structure for more consistency in regulations, more access to the fisheries in federal waters and as a result, more conservation and economic benefits for the nation.

Visit and send a prewritten letter to your U.S. Representative and urge them to cosponsor and support passage of H.R. 2023.

After: 6.7th grade level

And here’s how his piece looked after Austin rewrote:

Breakthrough in Fight for Longer Fishing Seasons?

America’s anglers have the best opportunity in years to gain more fishing access thanks to a new bill in Congress. But anglers must fight for the bill to become law.

The Modern Fish Act would bring deep-sea fishing laws into the 21st century. The current laws are keeping saltwater anglers on the shore, instead of on the water.

That was the case during this year’s extremely short Gulf red snapper season, which lasted a mere three days. Anglers have seen similar problems with cobia, fluke and dozens of other saltwater species. It’s time to fight for a solution.

The Modern Fish Act is that solution. The bill will give anglers:

  • Longer fishing seasons
  • More consistency in regulations
  • Increased access
  • More conservation funding
  • More days on the water with family

You can join the fight by sending a prewritten letter to Congress at Together, anglers can turn the bill into law. Learn more at

Writing for readability

Austin offers these suggestions to communicators who want to reel readers in with readability:

  1. Eliminate jargon that only insiders care about. In his revised copy, Austin used more colloquial terms, such as deep sea fishing, to eliminate confusing phrases like offshore fishing in federal waters.
  2. Cut ancillary details that only insiders care about. Cutting background like bill number, official name of the bill and Congressman who introduced the bill allows the benefits to readers to shine through.
  3. Increase readability by decreasing word count and sentence length.

Austin took these tools home from the workshop and has been sharing them with his PR team. The results?

“We were previously writing at a sophomore in college level,” he says. “We’ve gotten that down to about an 8th grade level without sacrificing the effectiveness of our work.”

And that’s how you reel them in.

  • Get a writing workout with Ann

    Boost readability up to 300% in our clutter-cutting smackdown

    In the crunch of writing headlines and meeting deadlines, it sometimes seems as if there’s not enough time to pause and consider how you’re doing.

    Get a writing workout with Ann

    Bring your laptop and a story to work on. You’ll get a great opportunity for reflection and improvement.

    Master the skills we study in class and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

    At Cut Through the Clutter — our in-house clear-writing workshop — you’ll learn how to:

    • Master the techniques you learn in the workshop by applying them immediately. (That’s how we put the “Master” in the Master Class!)
    • Gain valuable insights on your work from your peers and from Ann.
    • Learn to analyze and improve others’ writing — the best skill you can develop for editing others or improving your own work.

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