Writing Content

How to write readable content

Good content means a great user experience

Whether you are writing content for website pages or blog posts, you need to be focused on your target audience. Text needs to be written so that is easy to understand, interesting and gives them the information they need. It might sound pretty obvious, but difficult to read content will not appeal to your website visitors. Readability (writing in plain and understandable language) can and does get you more site traffic. Plus the other bonus to writing good content is that search engines love it!

Writing content to improve your user experience and enhance your sites search rankings. Person is reading text on a electronic device that they are holding in their hands

Identify your audience

Your first task, before you start writing anything, is to know who you are writing for. Your text needs to be at the right level for your target audience. For example, if you are writing a handy little instruction guide don’t assume that your readers are going to know technical terms.

Write instructions as if every reader is a total beginner and starting from scratch. That way everybody will understand it, use it and refer back to it. They will also trust you and come back to your site when they need information on similar topics, or to find the answer to a question. Instruction guides are a good example because they’re not just for beginners. Experienced users will refer to them too, especially if it’s topic they’re not totally familiar with. 

Blogging is the same. It might be easy for you to write an article about making cornflake cakes, but what if one of your readers has never done it before? Not only does content have to be interesting and readable, but it has to be at the right level for people who might be totally inexperienced cooks.

Writing blogs

Let’s talk about blogs first, because generally they will be the longest and most frequently written pieces of content. The same guidance will apply to website content too, but we’ll cover web content in a separate article.

As well as being relevant and interesting, your blog posts have to be readable. If they’re not, then your audience probably won’t even finish reading them. When you’re starting any blog make it clear from the beginning what the topic is, then go into more detail as you continue writing. This helps the reader understand the concept of your article from the outset.

Try not to make your paragraphs too long, and keep your sentences short as well. How many times have you started to read something and then had to start again because the sentences dragged on? A good readability measure is to try and keep sentences to a maximum of 20 words. More than that is considered to be too long. Also, if you use shorter sentences there is less chance of making grammatical errors.

Writing in a notebook

Plan your paragraphs

Here’s an example paragraph, extracted from an SEO blog post. It’s been edited to show you how not to write content.

If you really want original pictures that fit your post you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture; one that can never be found on another blog and on top of that this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post so if you’re blogging about your day-to-day life taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs or for a company blog or a technical blog or anything else for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.

Take a breath

Even with a few commas in there to break up the sentences, the paragraph is still very difficult to follow; the sentences are far too long. Think about how you have a conversation. You don’t talk without taking a breath, so why would you expect someone to read without punctuation?

This is the original, unedited version of that same paragraph. 

If you really want original pictures that fit your post, you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture, one that can never be found on another blog. On top of that, this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post. If you’re blogging about your day-to-day life, taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs. For a company blog, a technical blog, or for Yoast.com for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.

Now, isn’t that much easier to read and understand?

Keep it simple

The other thing to consider is vocabulary. Try to limit the use of long words. Any word that has four or more syllables is considered difficult to read. You have probably come across articles where the author appears to have deliberately thrown in jargon, or a few long words. It can make you wonder whether they are trying to give the impression that they are clever. Or they just haven’t considered their target audience.

If you have to look up a word, phrase or acronym when you are reading content then it can be very off-putting. So if you are going to use acronyms, then the first time you mention them include the full phrase, e.g. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). You don’t want them to have to leave your page to understand what you are saying. If they do then there is a risk they will get distracted along the way, and not come back!

Of course, depending on your blog topic you might need to use advanced vocabulary and terminology. But if your paragraphs and sentences aren’t too long, then it should still be readable. 

If the average person finds website content too difficult to read, they’ll click elsewhere.

Readable.com

Content writing tools

If your business website has been created on WordPress then there is a really useful tool that you can use to help create readable content. Yoast SEO* checks the sentence and paragraph lengths as you are writing. It also checks whether you are using enough transition words and sub-headings. These are all elements which make your content more readable. You probably use transition words quite naturally when you are speaking. However, it can be difficult to use them in the right place when you are writing. And when you are trying to include enough transition words to improve the readability, it’s very tempting to use the same ones. This is another ‘No-No’. Try to avoid repetition and using the same words over and over and over again.

*Other tools or plug-ins are also available.

Create a draft version

Draft your blogs first in Microsoft Word, Google docs or Grammarly. They each have inbuilt writing tools that can help with grammar and spelling. In MSWord you can also search for synonyms – words that have a similar meaning. Simply highlight the word you want to replace, and ‘right-click’. This will bring up a list of options, one of which is ‘Synonyms’, and if there are words available they will be presented on the right-hand side. For example the word ‘business’ could be replaced with any of the following similar words:

  • commercial
  • occupational
  • corporate
  • professional
  • commerce

It’s a really useful aide and yet another way to keep your readers interested, fascinated and engrossed. 

Read before you publish

When you have completed the first, second or third draft of your blog, there is one thing you must do. Before you hit the publish button read out load what you have written. Reading on screen is difficult, and it’s very easy to miss spelling and grammatical errors. If you read it out loud it also helps to find sentences that might be too long, or could be better structured.

To summarise

Writing content doesn’t come easily to everyone. But hopefully if you follow the following guidelines it will help you to improve on the readability and keep your followers interested.

  1. Plan your content – Who is your target audience? What do you want to tell them? Is there a sequence or logical order to your topics?
  2. Breakup lengthy paragraphs with relevant headings and images. Good photo and video content always keeps people interested.
  3. Use short sentences and avoid using long, difficult words. Keep it simple and try not to use complicated sentences.
  4. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. Poorly written content can appear unprofessional and put people off. Search engines don’t like it either.
  5. Mix it up a bit. Alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Also, you should avoid starting sentences with the same word.
  6. Read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read well or sounds odd, then people won’t like it, and neither will Google. You want your readers to read your blog post all the way to the end, and to keep coming back. So make sure your content is relevant, interesting and easy to read.

Readability is key to creating a great user experience and improving your search rankings.

Copyright : www.formationespoirnature.fr and the author : Shirley Atkinson Rencontrez l'équipe Meet the team - Shirley Atkinson Website Consultant, Content writer Usability review

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