Readable copy is a big key to sales! People today don’t want to wade through information that reads like a dull textbook. Most of us skim-read, instead of word for word. We are such multitaskers and so many choices that we aren’t patient with reading.
Recently, I received an email promoting a new product from a spa supplier. I knew the product was a performer, but the description was hard to read. So, I copy/pasted it into an analyzer. The readability was at the post-college level.
This prompted me to go online and look at descriptions of the same type of product marketed by department store brands. Their descriptions were much easier to read and focused on what their customers wanted to know. What it would do for them.
Table of Contents
Readability refers to how easy a sentence is to read and understand. There are several formulas, that’s another article. The important thing to remember is to keep it simple. The harder it is to read, the quicker your reader may hit the delete key or leave your website.
Originally, it was used to evaluate training materials. Today it is used by smart marketers.
In today’s world, we are bombarded by electronic marketing. Junk mail, emails, newsletters. We go online; lots more marketing. Sensory overload. We are in a hurry. We want what we are looking for quick and easy. Your potential customers want the same thing.
Every written piece put out there needs to be easy to read. Website pages, emails, newsletters all need to be visitor friendly and quick to read.
In 2014, Hubspot Marketing reported that you have less than 15 seconds to engage your reader. A surprising 55% of them will click off your page in that period.
If the reader is on a page that doesn’t answer their question or meet a need – they are going to be gone. They are in the wrong place.
However, if they are looking for what you have, we need to help them stick around and find it. We need to make sure our message is clear, simple, and easy to skim read.
Think about opening your email box first thing in the morning. There are probably at least 50 new emails waiting. Most of us, scan for the obvious ones to delete. Check, check, check, delete – done. Then you start with the rest.
You don’t actually read most emails completely. You quickly skim them to see if you’re interested. If they are hard to read, it bogs you down. The more you have to “work” to read information, the more apt you are to think, just stuff it, and hit delete.
Ever been caught in a loop and realize you’ve been rereading the same sentence over and over? Simple words, short sentences, and white space make a huge difference. The combination of words plus sentences is the basis for how easy something is to read.
Once you have your first draft complete, read through checking word choices. The more syllables a word has, the harder it is to read. It mentally takes more energy.
“Harder” is easier to read than “more difficult” or “more challenging”. It has fewer syllables and doesn’t require a support word.
Choosing a shorter word won’t make it sound like you have a limited vocabulary or it was written by a grade-schooler. It’s only about that mental energy use.
Sometimes you can’t avoid complex words. Technical materials or say medical topics need their specific words.
The longer and more complicated a sentence, the harder it is to read. Look for ways to break them into shorter sentences.
A good tell is to read the segment out loud. If you have trouble speaking it, people will have trouble reading it. Run out of breath in the middle of a sentence...shorten it.
There are lots of readability analyzers out there. This is good because most document creators don’t include it.
Grammarly uses a straight Flesch score system that the lower the number the harder it is to read. You’ll need a paid version to get the function.
Hemingway uses the Flesch-Kincade US grade scoring system so the higher the number the harder it is to read. A 14 would be post-graduate. Seven would be 12-13-year-old students. Most of the time, you want to have your text at nine or lower.
The unique part of Hemmingway is when you paste your text into the system, it renders it color-coded.
Yellow text is hard to read. Red text is very hard to read. Green is passive voice and purple is words that may have a simpler option. It’s very quick to see where the problem is and hone in on it.
As you shorten sentences, your red or yellow disappears and your grade score drops. It can also be used as a document creator with marking turned off in the write mode.
I find using one of the many analyzers speeds up the editing process and gets the job done.
If you have a solid page of text it is hard to focus on let alone read. Look for ways to break up long paragraphs. It’s like letting the reader take a breath.
Another good way to evaluate your white space is to look at your document in mobile format. If your document creator doesn’t let you see desktop, laptop, mobile views, a WordPress Post will.
If your reader has to scroll, and scroll, and scroll to get to the end of a paragraph...or a sentence, it’s too long.
Even product descriptions are not immune. Bulleting key benefits are good. However, lumping all of the description into one paragraph takes more mental energy to read. Give the reader a break. Break it into shorter paragraphs to make it more readable.
Word choices, shorter sentences, and white space make reading your offer a breeze and increase the ease of buying.
Part of my get-acquainted process is to look at the existing content and email funnels. Is it recent, relevant, and readable? Copy plays a big supporting role in buying decisions. If I see readability issues, I show them how much more effective it could be.
Judith Culp Pearson receives three top honors
at the annual Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals in
Ft. Worth, Texas - October 7-9, 2023