Content Readability: Why It’s Important

Readability. It’s a topic rarely talked about and overlooked in writing sales copy. It serves as a basis to grow your business by converting readers.

In fact, one of copywriting’s main goals is to communicate a message in the easiest manner to your readers.

  • Easy enough for a second grader to comprehend your copy.
  • Easy enough for search engines to rank your content at the top.
  • And without a doubt, easy enough for your viewers to have a positive reading experience.

In a world of short attention spans and distractions, simplifying your copy is the answer. After all, it’s your audience you write for, so make their reading experience enjoyable.

If you aren’t keeping your readers’ in mind when it comes to readability, it can mean:

  • You don’t care to solve your customers’ needs and problems.
  • You’re not aware of the value and benefits of optimized copy.
  • Conversions are low.

“The truth is that the best communicators are and have always been the clearest communicators — from Winston Churchill to Albert Einstein.”

Paula LaRocque

Let’s dive into the topic of readability and why it’s important.

Table of contents: Content Readability

What is readability?

It’s the measurement of how well a reader comprehends copy or text.

A copy’s readability score account for qualitative and quantitative measurements. Per The University of Chicago Press, three factors make up a content’s readability. And those factors are content, format, organization, and style.

Examples of other factors can include:

  • Character and word count
  • Vocabulary complexity
  • Legibility
  • Typography
  • User experience

But, there is more to meets the eye when it comes to words and legibility. In fact, a visual aspect of readability exists. It’s where design and visible aesthetics play a big factor.

Look at readability as the ability for your readers to set words apart from each other.

For example, take into consideration the small print of the terms & conditions. You’re likely a part of the majority who skip over that section of contracts because it’s hard to read. The long paragraphs, small font, complex words, or legibility don’t phase you.

On a visual level, it’s not easy on the eyes, so you resort to moving on.

Why is readability important?

People don’t read content anymore.

They skim content.

Picking up the most important information that meets their needs.

Readability is important in the information-driven age that we live in. And, communication plays an important role in living our day-to-day lives.

Imagine the frustration for visually impaired persons who cannot read on a device due to small text.

What about those with lower reading comprehension in trying to decipher what a text means?

Picture readability like the amount of light available to you. The darker a room, the harder to see your surroundings. The more illuminated a room, the easier it is to navigate your surroundings. You will more likely perform better in an illuminated room.

Let’s look into why readability is important.

Discoverability and Search engine optimization

Search engines place a high emphasis on content with high readability. Having information that is highly readable trigger search engines in making your content more discoverable.

For example, low readability content correlates to high bounce rates. And high bounce rates affect your SEO rankings. Whereas, readable content is more engaging, resulting in increased visitor page times.

User engagement

Content that is more readable results in more page views, organic traffic, interaction, and click-through rates.

Content readability strategies

1. Shorten word count in your sentences

Sentences with fewer words make your content easy to read. Anything more than 20 words hinders sentence readability.

2. Limit characters per word

Yes, even the character count affects readability. Words under 5 letters are easy on the eyes to comprehend.

You can use thesaurus tools to help you find shorter synonyms or syllables to replace long words.

3. Write shorter paragraphs

You are likely beginning to see a pattern here for effective readability.

That’s right, make things short!

And that same rule applies to paragraphs with the body of your content.

Paragraphs with 2-3 sentences are ideal for content scanability. Anything more than 3 sentences need to be truncated to fewer sentences.

If you visually look at long paragraphs with bulky sentences, it looks overwhelming. More than likely the reader would not be engaged or inclined to keep reading. Bulky paragraphs are what put your readers to sleep.

4. Master the language your reader speaks

How can your content be relatable if your viewers can’t understand your copy? After all, copywriting is the sole art form of communication, which involves both parties connecting in sync.

This means:

  • Your grammar and spelling have to be error-free.
  • Understanding your audience and their pain points.
  • What makes them tick? This is where copywriting psychology comes in.
  • Your words need to be simple. So, drop the complicated lingo.

5. Remove filler words

No one likes unnecessary jibberish. By stuffing your content for the sake of having content only hurts your readability. It sounds redundant and unnatural.

  • Clear adjectives that are not essential when describing.
  • Truncate your sentences as much as possible if you can.
  • Remove prepositions after verbs (ex. “the meal was very satisfying” versus “the meal was satisfying”)
  • In general, be concise.

Be wary of these filler word examples that serve little to no value in your copy:

VerySort ofSlightly
A littleA lotNow

6. Drop formality

You don’t speak formally to your friends and family, do you?

Writing in a way that reflects the natural way you speak makes your content relatable.

Have the goal of writing like you are having a conversation with another person.

7. Use headings

Headings visually make your reader’s experience easier. Imagine entering an article with no use of headings. You would probably feel overwhelmed, and ultimately leave as soon as you could.

The use of headings keeps your readers on track. They do so by structuring your content into segments in a streamlined manner.

8. Visualization

What’s a summer day without the sun?

Well, the same concept applies to your copy, but without the visual imagery.

Content-rich media that appeal to your reader’s eyes work in harmony with your words. Visual media stimulate your reader’s senses by stimulating easier reading experience.

To enhance visualization in your readers, try these methods using visual mediums:

  • Eye-catching digital mages that spark the imagination.
    Images have to be relevant to the topic you are writing about to hold your claims.
  • Videos that engage viewers to support your copy.
    Videos are very popular. As they have the ability to enrich your copy with life. Adding energy and a personalized human experience that covers the standard written copy.
  • Data-driven statistics like charts, graphs, and diagrams
    These show comparisons, trends, relationships, processes, and analytics. Humans are justifiable beings. Which means they love facts and figures to back claims up. Factual pieces of information instill trust and credibility in your statements.
  • Informative infographics that drive engagement and reading times.
    One of the most visually and aesthetically appealing resources to drive reader engagement. Infographics are visually compelling and full of valuable information readers spend a lot of time analyzing. If well-executed, infographics stimulate a greater understanding of your copy’s topic.
  • Quotes to trigger emotion.
    This is where social proof comes into play. If someone of high importance says one thing, the masses follow. Quotes are great at triggering emotion in your readers by instilling the power of influence.
  • Emojis that evoke more emotion from your readers
  • Screenshots to support your claims.
    Screenshots a simple method in providing users what you see. Screenshots show your readers a sense of practicality. Your readers see a real human they relate to behind the screen.

9. Write in active voice instead of passive voice

In a nutshell, passive voice sounds formal and vague. We all know formal and vague is bad readability. By writing in active voice effectively communicates your point.

10. Visual design matters

Elements like typography, font size, color, contrast, and spacing matter to the eye.

What good is your high-quality content if it’s written in a low contrasting color?

What about a font that does not align with the feel you are going for?

Can a visually impaired person see you size 10px headline? Let’s be honest, a 10px headline is guaranteed to not convert.

An ideal body size font is 16-18px for readers. For headlines, even bigger and bolder to emphasize hierarchical value.

Readability summary

Readability is the key to a world of short attention spans and excess distractions. So, give your readers one less reason for cognitive overload.
To recap content readability:

  • People don’t read anymore. Instead, they scan.
  • Readability factors are word and character counts, vocabulary complexity, legibility, typography.
  • Keep your copy concise, yet direct.
  • Visual-rich media go hand in hand with copy.
  • Write the way you speak to your friends and family: natural-sounding.

By making your copy readable, your viewers will find immense value. It will provide a smoother reading and user experience. And when they have a better experience, it increases the chances of them finding a solution.