As a digital agency, most of our work at Ignition72 is technical in nature, including copy. One of the biggest challenges for writing technical web content is knowing the audience’s reading level, and this can vary greatly.
The most common tool to measure grade level is the Flesch-Kincaid scale. According to the Clear Language Group, the reading level of the average American is grade 8. The New York Times is grade 10.
Your web content? As Ignition’s Content Strategist, I’ve seen everything from college level to PhD.
What Should You be Shooting for with Your Web Content?
Your website’s home and secondary pages, and social media, should be as close to 8th grade as possible. Your website is a hub for all other web content. Viewers shouldn’t be bogged down by high concepts from the get-go, or have any questions about where they should scroll or click. Guide them easily along.
A technical eBook or blog should be conversational. Try for 8th grade to 12th grade. These often serve as top-of-funnel pieces and should be treated as such.
This may seem like an easy target to hit, but even 12th grade can be difficult. Just the correct terminology will boost the grade level. Same with the names of your products and services. You’ll have to learn other tricks to bring the grade level down.
For a white paper, you can safely live at the 12th grade level and into college. Your audience has the education, and most likely, are well past their bachelor’s degree. But going too far can make the piece a bore, even to the most educated of readers.
So, How Do I Lower My Score?
Glad you asked. These are the 5 tips I use the most:
Keep It Simple
Here are some word choices in this blog so far. “Use” instead of “deploy.” “Vary” for “fluctuate.” Even “or” rather than repeating “instead of.” I know that after the first mention, you can follow along.
You want to use words that mean the same thing but with as few syllables as possible. These word choices are little changes, but together, they can knock off a few grade levels.
Avoid Empty Jargon and Phrases
I can’t count the number of times I see “integrated business solutions” as a services description on a website. Or phrases in blogs and eBooks like “the strategic deployment of technical enterprise solutions.”
It’s so easy to fall into this trap, as this type of writing is so common in the tech world. But it is empty. It doesn’t say what you do. It talks around what you do. You’ll come across as being generic.
Whatever web content medium, your readers would much rather be told exactly what you do rather than have to guess.
Break Up Sentences
As an English major, I do love Jane Austin. But having one sentence take up an entire paragraph of space doesn’t have its place in web content. Think more Hemingway and break up those sentences.
Shorten those Paragraphs
For blogs, like this one, I don’t have any paragraph longer than 5 short sentences. I want you to be able to digest this information quickly. I’m also okay with you skimming it, as long as it draws your eyes to the call to action at the end.
eBooks are the same way, and whether as a pdf or web page format, they’re still designed for online reading. I’ll grant you that white papers have thicker paragraphs, but when written correctly, the paragraph still stays with one thought or idea.
Think of this as the sum of all the other tips. If you follow them, you will write In SPOKEN LANGUAGE.
In short, don’t be Brad!
Readers of every medium will appreciate it.
Wondering What the Reading Level Is of this Blog?
See, it can be done! On the Flesch-Kincaid scale, this blog checks in at 5th grade! If you want to check the grade level of any of your content, click here.
If you want to get it down a notch, or need help writing new content, Ignition72 is ready to jump in. Feel free to give us a call.