How Simple Should Your Writing Be?

Much simpler than you think.

Years and years of English lessons have taught us to believe that the more difficult the writing, the better.

Yet, our reality is the complete opposite; Big words are gradually irrelevant in published content. From blogs, Buzzfeed articles to newspapers and magazines, simple language prevails. 

Take for example, this excerpt from Elle Magazine about a writer and her relationship with her mother’s clothes.

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Source: Elle.com 

Relatively easy-to-read pieces like these are appealing (and addictive) because they guide audiences along, communicating ideas and messages clearly without forcing them to think too hard. Likewise, this style of writing is impactful, as it enables people who may have a weaker understanding of language to read too, paving the way for broader reach. 

But, what may seem simple to you may not be easy for another. On the other hand, too elementary, and you might risk skimping on important details. Thus, what level of comprehension is the sweet spot for adult readers? 

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So, What Level of Writing Should Your Content Be?

In general, most adults are comfortable with written content at a 6th – 9th grade level (about 12 – 15 years old). 

In fact, an interesting study done by Shane Snow of Contently found that many acclaimed or bestselling fiction writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway, wrote at, or below a 9th grade level. Furthermore, publications like Reader’s Digest are also written at a level geared for 15 year olds.

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(Source: Shane Snow from Contently) 

Likewise, when writing for the web, Yoast, a WordPress SEO plugin recommends a readability score of 60 – 70 (approx. 13 – 15 year old comprehension) for online content. This readability level is said to reduce bounce rates and improve rankings on Google Search.

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How To Write Like A 12 – 15 Year Old.

If you can’t put yourself in a time warp and imagine how you wrote back when you were 12, no worries.

Some general tips to follow include:

  • Introducing shorter sentences and paragraphs.
  • Not using too many adverbs (e.g. Exasperatingly)
  • Replacing complicated vocabulary with broken down explanations or simpler alternatives.
  • Adding transitional words (e.g. In addition, Furthermore, But, Also)

Thankfully, there are many useful indexes used to calculate readability; Tools like Online Utility can help analyse text and generate an average score based on various reading indexes. Furthermore, writing tools like Hemingway help to pinpoint any heavy sentences, difficult wordings or confusing phrases.

Lastly, see this form of writing as an upgrade and not a decline in your writing quality. But remember to match this with your content’s target audience. If you are writing copy geared towards IT professionals or doctors, using technical terms or jargon is accepted, even appreciated. 

Copy that is smooth, clear and easy on the brain speaks louder to consumers. If you want to start writing simpler, here are more resources and tips to check out.

Written by: (www.script.com.sg) 

Edited & Illustrated by: Script Consultants Pte Ltd

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