As a copywriter, I follow specific parameters on different projects depending on client needs. As a business owner, you will find that your copy has the potential to entice new customers, or drive away potentials. The rules of that copy are completely up to you. So why should you consider readability an important component in your copy guidelines?
You’re aiming for a specific audience.
Your audience might be doctorate program peers or a middle school class. Either way, you have a target in mind when you begin writing. To effectively deliver the information that a certain population is looking for, you need to meet them where they’re at.
With your doctorate peers, you want to sound educated and intelligent. This will require a higher level of writing than that presentation to middle school kids. That audience would likely be intimidated by more formal and elaborate writing.
You want to be understood.
If you’re writing to a higher level of understanding than the majority of your audience, they won’t get you. If they’re scratching their heads and thinking maybe they should Google some terms, then you’re not holding up your end of the communication bargain. Remember, our job as communicators is to do our best to get our message across clearly.
I know it’s tempting to use fun words like snafu and expeditious, but don’t use them unless you’re absolutely positive your audience will be receptive. On that same note, don’t use slang or abbreviated terms if your intended audience is made up of college professors or literary geniuses.
You don’t want people to get exasperated or bored.
I read at a fairly high level, and apparently write that way too. That said, I have visited blogs and business webpages that had me questioning the need for a dictionary by the second paragraph. If you’re using big words just to sound pretentious, knock it off. Normal people don’t like that (not that I know any personally, but that’s what I’ve been told!).
Most normal people click away from boring content (and don’t think it’s fun to evaluate it like I do), so you’re losing readers if you don’t cater to their expectations. People aren’t visiting your site or shopping for your product because they want a mental challenge, they just want to know what you’re about and why.
Cater to your people, because…
You want to keep people around.
Your readers are what makes your content special! You know your readers are vital, so take the necessary steps to cater to them. Your readers feel at home when you’re clear and honest. You don’t want them to feel like they’re being tricked or purposely uninformed.
The more you concern yourself with how your readers interpret your message, the more you’re able to see things from their perspective. We write for other people to consume our writing. This is true whether it’s a career choice or a necessity through a school project or job.
Being able to produce desirable content + speak in a voice that is relevant to our readers is a formula for writing success. Keep this in mind when writing, and your readers will love you for it!
If you’re a blogger, the Yoast plugin makes keeping an eye on your readability super easy. If you’re using Microsoft Word, it’s simple to activate the built-in readability stats. Navigate to File –> Options –> Proofing and check the box for “Show readability statistics.” Then click for a spelling/grammar check and Word does the evaluation for you.