Give this a read:
Molecular approaches to understanding the functional circuitry of the nervous system promise new insights into the relationship between genes, brain and behaviour. The cellular diversity of the brain necessitates a cellular resolution approach towards understanding the functional genomics of the nervous system. We describe here an anatomically comprehensive digital atlas containing the expression patterns of ~20,000 genes in the adult mouse brain.
Now if you are a neurobiologist, this might have made some sense. But most of us aren’t. Chances are, you tuned out 1-2 sentences in.
Legal documents are another example of complex language. We all know what we do about those annoying terms and conditions checkboxes, right? It would be great if legal text was easier to read (and you’d probably read more EULAs yourself if that was the case). But the complexity is there on purpose. You don’t need legal complications that arise from a confusion about how a specific aspect is interpreted. It needs to be black and white.
When It comes to business writing, things don’t need to be that complicated. Your audience is likely educated, but they don’t have lots of time to spend gleaning meaning out of long sentences and big words.
Is good content always simple and bad content complicated? Not all the time! Does all your content have to be so simple a fifth-grader could read it?
Your objective is simple: Grab attention, send the message across, and influence action. The content you create needs to cater to a wide audience profiles at various levels of awareness about you and your products/services. Simple and effective languages, when paired with solid ideas and concepts is your best bet.
A big reason is to make sure your message is understood, but there‘s more to it than that. Let’s take a look:
Maintain Audience attention
Limited attention spans are a major constraint we face every day. As a content marketer, it never feels great to know that most audience members only glance momentarily through most of the content they come across. But that’s the reality. In this scenario, you need to minimize friction and make it as easy as possible for the audience to keep reading. Minimal jargon, simple sentences, and a bit of flair can go a long way!
Writing simple content is also about the way information is presented. Using simple language makes it easier for leads to understand data points. Infographics take things further. You could talk about a survey that shows how 70 percent of customers prefer your product. But a pie chart would show this immediately and attract audience attention better.
Convey A Sense Of Responsibility
You have to always remember that you are representing a brand whenever you create content. It is important to your business that you are approachable. Approachability needs to be key: after all, the whole point of creating content is to reach out and onboard new customers. You need to make them feel comfortable about reaching out to you.
Having your story presented in language that everyone can easily understand is vital. Simplicity is the new sophistication when it comes to brands!
But can you showcase your expertise without using big words? Absolutely! It’s all about telling a story.
Your audience consists of people with various levels of expertise both in English and in your domain. Using complex language excludes large groups of people from engaging with you. To showcase your expertise without relying on jargon, think in terms of journeys. What was a key problem you or a client faced? What were there pain points? How did you work with them to use your solution to enable success?
Of course, if you’re in a very technical niche, you might have to use a bit of complexity if the topic demands it. But keep this as a rule of thumb: right content that’s at the minimum level of complexity for your audience.
Say More With Fewer Words
We already touched on the issue of attention spans. When creating content, saying less is always better. But using fewer words doesn’t mean you have to water down your content. It just means cutting out the fluff and getting right to gist of things.
One of the best ways to do this is to make sure your topic choices aren’t too advanced or complex. Most readers aren’t that interested in the inner workings of your product, at least during the initial stages. They are more concerned about what it can do for them and how it can help them get results.
Reach Wider Audiences
In an increasingly virtual world, it makes sense to stay open to customers from newer segments and varied backgrounds. It’s important to remember that you might also be catering to people who speak English, but as a second language.
Using simple and clear language is a great way to ensure that second-language prospects across the world understand your product. Use shorter, simpler sentences, and avoid using idioms only certain groups understand.
Tips on Simple English Usage
We’ve just discussed why you want to use simple English. Now let’s explore the how with some simple and actionable tips.
Modulate Your Sentence Length
Sentence length determine readability to a large extent. It is good practice to use a mix of small and big sentences to ensure that the content is easily understandable.
Talking about optimum sentence length, 15 words on average works well. Sentences with 8 or fewer words will almost always be understood by the reader. Sentences with up to 25 words can work occasionally. But if you have sentences longer than this, consider breaking them into two.
Check the Fleisch- Kincaid Scale And Aim for an 8th - 9th-Grade Level
The Fleisch-Kincaid scale is one of the most widely used readability tests. You can use this scale to check the readability of your content.
The scale gives you 2 numbers – a reading ease score between 0-100 and a grade level for your content. The reading ease score gives you an indication of the complexity of your content. The lower the number, the more complex your content is. A score of around 65 is ideal for business content.
The grade level gives you an indication of how educated someone needs to be in order to fully understand your content. A complexity level of 8-9 is a good target. This basically means that a person at grade 8 or grade 9 reading level can easily understand what you’re saying. This level strikes the balance between being easy enough for most people to understand, while giving you leeway to explore complex themes.
Always Try to Use Active Voice
The sentences you write are clearer to understand when using active voice. Active voice makes sentences clearer to understand. See the difference between those two? Active voice ensures that there are fewer ambiguities in your content. Active voice sentences are structured like this – The subject acts on the object.
Passive voice statements turn this on its head and are structured like this – The object was acted upon by the subject. Here, the focus is on the object.
One issue with passive voice is that you can often form a complete sentence without specifying the subject, which can make things confusing. Take a look at these examples:.
The file needs to be uploaded here
This passive voice statement does not specify who has to upload the file. But let’s look at the clearer, active form:
You should upload the file here.
Use active voice whenever possible. It makes your content easier to understand and conveys the feeling that you’re solution-oriented.
Your marketing content is successful only when the audience receives a clear message and performs an action. Simple, effective content minimizes friction and makes it easier for prospects to understand how you can help them.
Looking to transform your web and social content? Reach out to us for a free content gap analysis!
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Robb Fahrion is a Co-Founder and Partner of Flying V Group. He is passionate about helping businesses grow using the power of the internet. Robb graduated from Chapman University in Orange, CA and currently resides in Costa Mesa, CA. Robb enjoys writing about digital marketing, helping his clients turn their dreams into reality, and he is a HUGE Mike Trout fan.