Write Like an Eighth Grader, Make Money Like a Banker
Is it possible that you are writing “too smart”?
If you post on a blog, compose sales copy, send emails, or write just about anything else that you want people to read and take action, I have a quick and easy tip to help you get the word to your readers.
When communicating in writing, simpler is better! Research shows that most Americans read at a seventh or eighth grade level. It’s not a question of intelligence. It’s a matter of clarity. It’s easier to get your message across when it is simpler and more efficient.
Your readers do not want to get confused or to be challenged intellectually. If they struggle to figure out what you are trying to say, they may skip over your work and move on to something else. This is even truer in todays fast pace society.
Microsoft has a tool in Word you can use to actually measure the reading level. Word uses a formula called the Flesch-Kincaid readability index that calculates a reading level of the work.
Flesch-Kincaid is easy to understand. A result of 8.0 means the readability of your work is at an eighth grade level. You want to target a range of 6-8 on the readability scale.
On a P.C.: In Word, click on the 4-colored pretzel thingy in the upper left corner. Click on “Word Options” at the bottom of the window. Click on “proofing”. Check the box next to “Show Readability Statistics”.
On a Mac: In Word, click on “Word” on the top task bar. Click on “preferences”. Click on “Spelling and Grammar”. Check the box next to “Show Readability Statistics”.
Now you are set up!
To find out your score on the piece you are writing in Word, go to “Tools”> “Spelling and Grammar”. After Word walks you through a spell check (which you are hopefully doing) you will get a window that has your readability score. Very easy and pretty cool!
Here are a few tips to lower your Flesch-Kincaid score to improve readability:
- First of all, relax! Don’t try to think too much when writing. Use the “Barstool Test” (note: you must assume sobriety). Pretend you are speaking to a friend on a barstool next to you. Use everyday conversation.
- If appropriate, tell a story. This is a way to help keep the level of writing on a conversational level
- Use active sentences (John drove) vs. passive sentences (John was driving)
- Never use “there are” or “there is”. Instead of “There are no other companies selling this product.” use “No other companies sell this product.”
- Reduce the number of sentences per paragraph
- Reduce the number of words per sentence
- Reduce the number of characters per word
As an example of how effective using this tool is, let’s look at the Agora publishing company, one of the largest and most successful consumer newsletter publishers in the world. Agora sells over a dozen different information products across a range of topics from health and wellness to travel to international living to financial investing. Their readers tend to be sophisticated and wealthy, and they tend to buy an average of three Agora products each.
Agora has extensively researched the use of the Flesch-Kincaid tool as it relates to subscriptions and direct marketing metrics. Study after study found copy written at the lowest Flesch-Kincaid levels has the most subscribers, best marketing response rates, and most revenue! Now all their written material must now pass the Flesch-Kincaid test with a maximum of 7th-8th grade reading level before publication!
Let me conclude with the following recommendations:
- Consider incorporating the Flesch-Kincaid test to all your written material
- Follow the simple suggestions above to lower your score if necessary
- Watch the response to your call to action sky rocket!
- Don’t tell your high school kids they should dumb down their writing
Take control of your destiny
P.S. If you would like to learn more about how to apply these concepts of simple persuasive writing to a government approved Facebook cash-generating machine, check this out
P.P.S. I would love to read your comments below! Please make sure they are not written at the high school level!
P.P.P.S. The Flesch-Kincaid score of this article is 6.7