City communicator increases Flesch Reading Ease by 38.8%
Wendy Jorgensen’s job is to deliver city news to Plano, Texas, residents. Although the best way to do that is to make messages as readable as possible, city government messages in general have a reputation for being stodgy, dull and thick.
But not on Wendy’s watch. The City of Plano’s senior marketing and communication coordinator improved readability by nearly 40% in our Catch Your Readers Readability Smackdown in Dallas this year.
Whether you’re writing press releases or content marketing pieces, intranet articles or email marketing blasts, you can do a better job of reaching your readers and getting the word out when you improve readability.
5 ways to rock readability
Participants in our Readability Smackdowns increase readability by 20%, 200% — even, in one case, 1,200% — in a single hour.
How did Wendy achieve a 40% increase in her Flesch Reading Ease score? She:
- Whittled the number of words by 13%, from 217 words to 188.
- Slashed paragraph length by 68%, from an average of 5 sentences to 1.6 sentences. Average number of words per paragraph determine whether people will read your paragraphs — or skip them.
- Streamlined words per sentence by 45%, from 21.1 words to 11.6 words on average. Sentence length is one of the top 2 predictors of readability, so this goes a long way.
- Reduced syllables per word by a smidge. If you really want to increase readability, deal with your syllable count! Polysyllabic words reduce readability more than anything else.
- Brought her Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level down by 38%, from 12.3 to 7.6. This is a metaphor: It doesn’t really reflect the number of years of education or level of education people need to read a piece of text.
The result: Wendy’s Flesch Reading Ease score rose from 43.8 to 60.8.
There are lots of readability tests for English text, from the Coleman Liau to the Automated Readability Index. But the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level are good readability formulas for corporate writing.
Now see what a difference readability makes in Wendy’s before and after …
Before: thick paragraphs, long sentences
Wendy’s original draft looked off-putting, with its thick paragraphs. Long sentences made the piece hard to understand.
On April 3, the Plano Tomorrow comprehensive plan was launched online in draft form. The plan will be the guiding document for future development, transportation design, City service implementation and management of City parkland. The web-based, interactive format of Plano Tomorrow is an emerging concept in cities around the world and is the first to be introduced by a Texas community. Historically, Plano’s comprehensive plan has been in a printed format that could only be accessed in person or downloaded online. “In essence by doing the comprehensive plan in this format, it becomes a living document that can evolve as our population changes and new trends in development arise,” said Planning Director Christina Day. Explore the 15 videos outlining aspects of the plan, watch as actions in the plan progress and rank the actions that matter most to you.
The plan was launched in advance of the Planning and Zoning Commission work session on Thursday, April 9 at 6 p.m. at Plano Municipal Center, 1520 K Ave. The work session will focus on the draft Plano Tomorrow plan. Residents will be able to attend in person or to message questions through the City of Plano Facebook page or to post questions on Twitter with #PlanoTomorrow. Check out the plan at planotomorrow.org.
After: people doing things
Notice how much easier Wendy’s second draft looks to read. And if it looks easy to read, more people will read it.
Also, note that human-interest lead. Writing about people doing things is a great way to streamline syllables and make messages more meaningful.
Tom Smith takes the DART Rail every day to work. To get to the station, he walks 3 miles and some days the lack of sidewalks is challenging. He hopes to change that with Plano’s comprehensive plan.
He ranks sidewalks as a program he wants prioritized in the new Plano Tomorrow interactive.
Put your mark on the plan to shape future growth and improve traffic delays and City services and parkland use. Ranking are weighed during the annual budget process.
Watch the Planning and Zoning Commission Plano Tomorrow work session on Thursday, on April 9 at 6 p.m.:
- Ask questions in person at Plano Municipal Center
- Message us through the City of Plano Facebook
- Post questions on Twitter (#PlanoTomorrow)
Show us how you want your tax dollars invested at planotomorrow.org.
Multiply the readability of your message.
Ready to rock readability, like Wendy? Please share your before-and-after in the comments section below. And let us know how much your readability improved.