Readability is essentially ensuring that your writing is clear and concise for your readers, such that there leaves no room for doubt as they read through your work.
The entire process should be effortless for your readers, they should be able to grasp the ideas and concepts easily.
Making your work readable is important as most people tend to stop reading if it’s too confusing and convoluted. You definitely want your readers to finish reading your entire work!
Before moving on to how you can improve the readability of your work, we should understand how readability is determined.
Developed by Rudolf Flesch and J. Peter Kincaid, the Flesh-Kincaid readability tests are often used to evaluate the readability of texts.
There are two tests - Flesh Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and both have different weighting factors.
In the Flesch Reading Ease test, there are scores given to indicate how easy it is for one to read your work. The higher the score (out of 100), the easier it is to read. You would want to aim for a score around 60-80 as it is fairly easy for the general population to read.
In the Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level, it presents a number that corresponds with a U.S. grade level, indicating the level of education (or years of education) generally required to understand the text.
However, for both tests, the score you want to get and see is dependent on your target audience, and aim for a score that will keep your readers interested.
If you are writing an essay for an academic journal, you’d want your score to be lower as compared to someone writing a blog article for instance.
JotterPad has a readability function under Inspector, where it uses the Flesh-Kincaid readability score to inform you of how easily readable your text is. Not only does it provide you with a score, it also gives you a short description such as “Plain English”.
Tips on improving readability
Many believe that in order for their work to be readable, they should “dumb down” their content. However, this is a common misconception.
Instead, you should focus on how you structure your sentences, the vocabulary you use and more.
Alternate between long and short sentences
I’m sure we’ve all skipped sentences that seem to take up an entire paragraph simply because it seems too daunting.
Instead of writing convoluted and run-off sentences, take the chance to write short and succinct sentences as well.
Having a mix of both long and short sentences keeps it interesting for your readers, and they are thus more likely to continue reading.
Whenever possible, use words that are shorter and simpler as it is easier to understand.
For instance, instead of using “impecunious”, use “poor” or “not well-off”.
If your readers have to search up the dictionary as they read, it disrupts their experience and may deter them from continuing.
Try to use simple and short words to bring your point across and remember to drop the jargon!
Breaking up with paragraphs
Do not write overly long paragraphs because many readers find that unsightly and frustrating to read.
Break up your text into paragraphs of appropriate length so that it remains readable.
Write in active voice
So what’s the difference between active and passive voice?
Writers tend to write in active voice, which is where writers describe a subject performing the action.
For instance: Sarah is swimming. He ate the last cookie.
It is clear that the subject is doing said action, and is the main focus when you use active voice.
Meanwhile, passive voice is where writers emphasizes the action instead of the subject.
For instance: The money was picked up by him. The interview was conducted by a panel.
Over here, it is clear that the action is the main focus of the sentence.
Try to use active voice when writing as it is less confusing for readers. Also because active voice makes your work more readable.
Only use passive voice when it helps to bring across your points better than active voice.
Finally, you can always check your readability score to see if your work is written in a manner that can be read easily by your target audience.
There is actually a math formula to help calculate the F-K readability score of your text, but that’s just too troublesome.
Instead, when you use JotterPad, it automatically calculates the score for you as you write and you can check it with one click!
To become a greater writer, it is important to ensure that your work is readable.
While there is no hard and fast rule to improving readability, you can use the tips above to help you as you write your next novel, essay or article!