Content Writing: How to Score an "A" for Readability [VIDEO]

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Can your five-year-old niece understand your content without any help? And can your grandmother read your article without getting a headache? That’s exactly where “reading ease” comes in.

I’ve talked about the importance of “readability” in content, but find that there are still some content writers who are not sure how to implement this into their writing.

This article will go in-depth into one of content’s winning factors - the Readability Score. You’ll learn:

  • How to write content that’s easy on the eyes, and not to mention sounds good in your head
  • Get readability formulas to apply right now
  • Where to find online readability tests to back your content up

But first, let’s get to the basics.

(P.S. If you're only interested in the video tutorial, you can skip directly to the end of this page.)

What is a Readability Score?

A Readability Score is, very simply, a grade or score that tells you how easy it is to read your text - or in other words, your content’s “reading ease”.

You’ll find readability score checkers embedded in popular SEO tools like Yoast SEO for Wordpress or SEOpressor, but it is more popularly used as a free standalone tool at Readable.io.

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Image: Readability tab in Yoast SEO for Wordpress

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Image: Readable.io - free readability checker

Why is readability score so important to content writers?

This is where we draw the line between traditional writers and content writers.

Content writers are primarily online writers. They produce or write content specifically for online publishing. That means their content needs to be short, concise, straight to the point, and most importantly, it answers people’s questions.

But surely there isn’t that much of a difference, is there? Any writer should be able to write online content as long as they’re good writers, right?

No, that’s where people get it wrong.

There is a very distinct difference between traditional medium writers and content writers - and a readability score is one way to differentiate the two.

If you’re interested, you can read more about how content writers are not your typical band of writers here.

Here are 5 ways to increase Readability Score:

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1. Ensure sentences contain no more than 20 words (ideally).

This sounds ridiculously easy but a lot of creative writers still struggle with keeping things short and simple.

That doesn’t mean that content writers are ‘simple’ writers - in fact, they’re far from that. They’re actually adept at data and optimization.

If you searched for “how much is the price of a Starbucks latte” on Google, would you rather see this:

The price of a Starbucks latte largely depends on the size of the drink and any possible valid current promotions happening between such and such period, possibly costing anywhere between $3.50 to $6.90.

Or this:

Starbucks latte regular price:

  • Tall: $3.50
  • Grande: $5.5
  • Venti: $6.90

A content writer thinks about delivering the message or providing the answer in the best way possible - usually 20 words at a time.

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2. Ensure Reading Ease score is at least 60

Readable.io is fantastic because it not only measures text readability but also other statistics and scores, like:

  • Flesch Reading Ease
  • Flesch Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Score
  • Coleman-Liau Index

For the above, try to aim for a score between eight to 10. Higher level comprehension (for more technical texts, reports and such) should lie between 10 to 12.

Reading ease score should be at least 60.

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The tool also checks for other underlying factors like:

  • Keyword density
  • Word and syllable counts
  • Speaking and reading times
  • Sentiment and tone analysis

“Tone”, for example, is an important factor in copywriting, so knowing the “tone” of your text puts you in favour with certain types of clients. Use this information to your advantage.

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3. Ensure amount of words following each subheading does not exceed 300 words.

The best trick to increasing your readability score is to break your text up into bite-sized chunks of information.

This means doing it in two ways:

a. Use subheadings often

Subheadings not only break up your text but it also helps your readers get the information they need fast - kind of like scrolling through a table of contents and getting to the most relevant chapter.

b. Use Bucket Brigades

Bucket Brigades is a popular copywriting technique used to keep readers scrolling, hence keeping them on the page longer. It’s a short, teaser phrase - used as its own paragraph - followed by a list, a quote, an interesting tidbit, an answer, or very simply, a new paragraph.

Some good examples of bucket brigades:

  • Take this, for example:
  • Let me show you how:
  • Here’s what happened next:

If you want more, Aaron Ward has a pretty good Bucket Brigades list right here.

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4. Paragraphs should be no longer than 3 or 4 sentences long.

In fact, the shorter the paragraph, the better.

Neil Patel, one of the world’s leading internet marketers, writes in just two- to three-sentence paragraphs - and there’s a perfectly good reason why:

It’s because the majority of people today are browsing the Internet on their phones.

Smartphones have very limited screen space so reducing the length of the paragraph makes the text easier on the eyes, and of course, increases overall readability.

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5. Check for inappropriate usage of passive voice.

Many non-native English writers are guilty of using passive voice - more than they realize.

This happens due to the fact that most foreign languages (especially Asian languages) are naturally passive. When translated into English, the text usually appears in the passive voice.

An example:

Passive: “The ball was being kicked by him.”

Active: “He kicked the ball.”

Grammatically, the passive text isn’t wrong; but it doesn’t convey the message as best as it could and it lacks the clear messaging readers deserve.

Yoast SEO has a published an in-depth explanation of the negative impact passive voice has on your content, its readability, as well as optimization; so we recommend reading it here.

If you're still not sure, here's an example of an article with good readability

I can’t just tell you what to do and not show you how to do it. So if you prefer to see an example of an article with good readability, I recommend going through this blog post: 

READ: These 8 Free Tools Will Help You Write Like an SEO Pro

Hopefully, it’ll give you a visual idea of what good readability looks like.

As a general rule, content writers should aim to get an overall rating of “B” on Readable.io.

Video tutorial: Watch how we increased Our readability score from an "E" to "A"

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