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.
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.
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.