Ever come across a passage that loses you right in the first sentence? Read a book that you just didn’t get even when you finished it? A blog post that rambles one without really going anywhere?
Yes, we’ve all been there and either done that or experienced it.
You may be a great writer and still not catch a reader’s attention. Your grammar and structure may be flawless and yet readers may not connect with your message. So, where’s the problem?
Two words: Complicated Writing
Read on to find out whether your writing is too complicated and how to simplify it without losing your voice.
1. Long Sentences
Sometimes, we writers and bloggers, get so carried away by our thoughts that they come pouring out in long, long sentences. It is easy to write the way you talk and when you talk a lot (like yours truly!), well, you write that way too.
Take a good, hard look at your last article or post and see if you can spot too many long sentences. I cringe when I see some of my earlier posts and articles. What was I thinking?!
If yes, time to simplify. Shorten your sentences drastically. See how much value can you pack into a 10-15 word sentence as compared to a 25-35 word one. Make the dictionary your best friend and where possible, use one word instead of three.
2. Big, Fancy-Sounding Words
The words that we use are what draw our readers in. If you write about technical stuff, it is easy to use jargon or complicated words that a layman may not understand. Unless the audience that you’re writing for is at an advanced level, use simple, easy-to-understand words.
Don’t get tempted to use “big” words for the sake of using them. Use them only if you have to and only if your audience would understand them.
3. Unstructured, Long Paragraphs
Do your paragraphs run their own sweet course or do they have a structure? Are they short and crisp or just the opposite?
Creating a content flowchart for a blog post or a table of contents for a larger project helps you define where your post would go. Also, it will help you to keep your content focused, non-repetitive and straightforward.
For me, that means I write down my most important points and then, build from there. Usually the important points convert into bullet points or sub-heads.
As far as the length of the paragraphs is concerned, I learnt the ‘Short is Sweet’ mantra from Heather Allard of The Mogul Mom. In her Contributor Style Guide, Heather’s asked us to keep our paragraphs less than 4 lines for easy readability.
Try it and see how simple your writing becomes…instantly.
4. No White Space
White or “blank” space between chunks of text make it easy for readers to scan your writing easily and quickly.
Reams of text, single-spaced, and closely placed together is not only difficult to read but can give you a real bad headache! Ask me how I know.
5. Funny Fonts
Just like white space, the fonts that you use make a big difference to simplifying your writing and making it easier for readers to read, absorb and return.
This is true for both print and electronic media. Fancy, swirly fonts may look decorative but more often than not are hard-to-read and yes, headache-y.
Choose a simple, serif typeface like Times New Roman and you’re good to go. Reserve the swirls and swoops for the graphics on your blog.
6. No Sections, Sub-heads and Other “Breaks”
Breaking your text into readable chunks is a must-do for simple, easy-to-read writing. Like I said earlier, creating a content flow chart helps to define the sections that an article must have.
Group related content together and turn it into a sub-head. Break a long sub-section into bullet points. Remember to use simple, straightforward language for your headings so that your readers know what to expect from that section.
7. Too Much Information
Finally, in our enthusiasm to share, add value and create rockstar-style content, we can get carried away and overload our readers with information.
The length of your post is key to readability.
I personally prefer reading posts that are 500-700 words. The reason is simple. I do most of my reading on my Droid and the thought of reading a 3500-word post is just too tiring.
Having said that, if the information you have is all relevant and you’ve kept all the other simple writing tips in mind, then I really may be okay reading a 3500-word post too. **laughing**
But that’s me. Think about your target readers. Are they busy moms with little time to spare? Executives who do their reading on the commute? Or students who need to do a lot of research?
Different audiences have different needs. Tailor your content length to meet their requirements. In fact, if you follow all the above tips, you wouldn’t have a problem reaching the right length.
An Exercise in Simple Writing
If you feel your writing needs a little simplifying, why not write a post using these tips and see if it makes a difference. Feel free to share the link in the comments.
How do you simplify your writing?
Photo Credit: Jason Rogers