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September 1, 2017 (Updated: February 2, 2023)
Readers who can’t understand your content well won’t keep reading for long. If the articles in your blog are boring or confusing, they won’t attract people to your website or encourage potential customers to try your business. Readers will move on to clearer content, which may belong to your competitors, when your writing is too hard to comprehend. Create understandable content by using short paragraphs and subheadings, presenting ideas in a logical order, using examples, avoiding technical terms, using infographics, writing for a target audience, and testing readability.
Many people use the internet to look for specific information, so they don’t want to spend time reading a long article to find just a few essential facts. Make sure your content is easy to skim or speed read by using subheadings and short paragraphs. That way, readers can decide whether they want to look at an entire article or just the most relevant heading or subheading.
If your paragraphs are too long or too much information is included under the same heading, people have trouble getting the facts they need. Use short sentences and get rid of any words that are redundant or unnecessary. Bulleting lists with more than four or five items for extra clarity is a great idea.
In every article, you should include a summary of the most important ideas in your introduction. For example, a piece about cooking healthy dinner meals should let readers know why healthy eating is essential at the beginning. Then, you can list some specific tips and talk about how your tips save time and make dinner delicious. Use the rest of the article to recommend ingredients, favorite recipes, or convenient cooking methods.
Chronological order is almost always best for avoiding confusion. For example, you can’t bake a casserole without buying the ingredients and preheating the oven, so talk about the first steps first to make sure your ideas flow smoothly. Also, read your work before you publish it to catch any unclear or confusing sentences. For a different perspective, ask a friend to take a look and give you their thoughts.
Words often get confusing when you’re explaining complicated concepts, and good examples make your content more understandable to everyone. The previous section in this article used baking a casserole as an example of a task with a chronological order and defined steps because examples and metaphors make your text more entertaining and accessible to all readers.
Sometimes technical terms and acronyms are helpful, especially when you’re writing for experts or business people who will understand them. However, the average reader gets confused and frustrated quickly if he or she has to keep looking up the definitions for obscure terms. If you need to use a technical term, make sure you explain what it means.
Saying “the investigators use PCR” probably doesn’t make sense to most people, so you should simply say “the investigators use DNA testing” if your readers aren’t looking for information about a particular testing method. This keeps your content as simple, concise, and as understandable as possible. If your readers need more detailed information, explain that PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, a type of DNA testing. Also, make sure you double-check for typos and commonly confused words. If you accidentally write “the investigators use CPR”, even the best expert will have no clue what you mean.
Image via Flickr by dougbelshaw
Most people only remember about 10 percent of what they read, but they can recall 65 percent of information conveyed through charts, graphs, maps, or images. Humans process visual data faster than information from their other four senses, so looking at an image is easier than reading text. Diagrams, illustrations, animations, symbols, videos, and other visual representations make your content clearer.
These types of images are often called information graphics or infographics. Creating a color-coded chart or graph is more helpful than just listing a bunch of statistics. Instead of reading lots of boring data, your readers can look at a combination of text and images to learn easily about different relationships. Plenty of free infographic tools, including Google Charts and Easel.ly, come with templates to make creating these helpful images easy.
However, some people don’t have good vision, and others just don’t have time to watch a video. Include a short summary of all visual information so everyone can understand all of your content.
Before you start writing, think about what your readers are looking for. Are they college graduates who enjoy a long, somewhat challenging article, or are they high school students looking for some quick facts for a report? You should also think about the ways that gender and cultural differences impact your audience’s understanding of your content.
Use content marketing personas to help you appeal to every group of readers. For example, professional decorators, contractors, homeowners, and hobbyists may want to read the blog from the local hardware store. The content is interesting to everyone if some articles offer simple tips while others give advanced instructions. Since your readers change over time, you should review and update your personas every season. For example, readers often want to learn about staying cool in summer, and they’re usually not interested in heating until fall or winter.
After you finish writing, use the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index to test readability. It uses mathematical formulas to check text for reading ease and grade level, so you can easily find out if your content is right for high school students or for college graduates. However, it only measures features like the lengths of sentences and the number of syllables in each word.
Presenting ideas in chronological order, using infographics and examples, and writing for your audience make your content more understandable without changing your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level results. Considering all aspects of your content carefully makes it clear and entertaining to as many readers as possible.