Do you Want Your Work Skipped Over or Read?

Would you rather eat dirt or a sandwich?

This post concerns the marketing world, the field I spend the most time in. If you’re looking for a path or are just curious, then come on with me and learn about “readability”, something useful for mostly web material. Novelists, poets and academic writers might scoff at it.

What is Readability?

It is how easily the message of your text is understood. Things like long words and long sentences can deter the average Internet user. This is not because the average user is incapable of understanding your brilliance. It just jogs their brains a bit. Anything that slows down reading also tests patience.

If someone is snuggled up with a cup of tea ready to delve into a story, they want to savor the artistry of writing. If someone is navigating web pages, they want a quick dump of information. And that’s just the way we are.

seedy_bird

How Simple?

If your article/blog post can be easily read by a 7th or 8th grader, you have good readability. The Flesch Reading Ease Test measures several factors to determine this. Generally the more you can chop up a sentence, a paragraph or phrase, the better your score.

The Price of Ignoring It

Does Google look for readability when selecting search results? How big a factor is it? We just don’t know. Google likes to be mysterious. It is unrivaled, though many hardcore technology geeks use other search engines along with their Linux setup. And their Tor browsers. (We love you).

What to Choose

I am not a stickler on readability for this blog. For one, it’s actually about writing, and most people reading it are at least college-aged. This post in particular measures on an 8th grade level. My main concern is paragraphs. No one likes a text block.

Writing for other websites is a different story. Web writers need to dice up their material before submitting. Add subheadings. Throw out the passive voice. Stir in a few connector words. Make sure you don’t sprinkle in too much of the keyword. Viola, an omelette. Um, article.

Test your readability: 1

If you want to learn more: 2

How to Stop Going on Autopilot

“I’ll bet a fiddle of gold
Against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

You had a five-page assignment due and managed to squeeze it in in a solitary day. You feel proud that you’re so efficient and are one click away from turning it in to your professor or employer. You feel as confident as Johnny taking on the devil on the fiddle. You reluctantly give your work a quick skim and even more reluctantly come to the realization that writing has to be original to be impressive, not just speedy.

The paper is full of cliches and fillers and doesn’t even flow smoothly. Looks like you went on autopilot and just thought you were having a creative streak. It’s a great realization right before a deadline.

Satisfying the Word Count VS Writing

There are no less than five paragraphs in your paper that all say the same thing. When a paragraph ends, the small point should be over. If the reader arrives at the same conclusion multiple times, it’s dull and a dead giveaway that the author does not care about the material.

Genuine Interest

This is the key factor in writing well. You have to engross yourself in the writing. Always make sure you are putting effort to feel something, anything about the topic before you begin. If your interest is being shy and you are tempted to expand contractions to meet your word count, there are a couple go-tos to help make yourself interested.

Compare Statistics

Statistics is a magical world. There’s nothing that sparks interest quite like inferring conclusions from numbers. It is difficult to explain, but you know when an article is backed up by real statistics that that article just came to life.

poowpyouw

Relate Personally

Remember something related to the material that personally happened to you so that you can evoke real emotions to use for solid writing. This goes back to the days when you thought your third grade teacher was very interested in your personal life but really just wanted to prompt you to write well.

Add further ideas in the comments!

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…”

Yuck.

bush

Human beings employ cliches such as the one in the title as a quick, easy way to communicate. There’s nothing artsy about it, but if you’re telling a scary story when you’re out camping, you are going for quick communication of ideas. In that case, you want to have all the focus on the plot and nothing else.

That is sort of the way us humans work in our day to day lives. If you have a huge event that you want to get straight to and convey, you will probably use several cliches while explaining it. The burglar didn’t enter the house with a knife strapped on his leg, ammo in his pocket, holding a revolver in one hand and a semi-automatic in the other; he was armed to the teeth. If you just want to explain that your sister just had a traumatic experience, you probably don’t even know what the burglar was carrying anyway.

So, if this is true, why do people find too many cliches in their leisure reading so off-putting? Obviously, there are many people who like exciting plots and like to get straight to it. But cliches cannot truly immerse someone in an individual event. By their nature, they hide specific details. People most read leisure for…leisure. There’s something to be said for cheap thrills, but value also has it’s appeal.

Would you rather pay $15 for a great plot and rehashed phrases and themes or an entirely new adventure?

Also, try to avoid ironic uses of cliches and parts of cliches as titles, for example, “A Bird in the Hand. It’s been done. I promise. Cliches don’t describe your book or article very well. “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” is also just awful. 🙂

The Bane of Website Writing

Everyone can write online, but not everyone can write it well. Some employers seem to be completely blind to glaring errors on their website. More likely than not, they did it themselves, hired someone for “experience and portfolio expansion” (slave labor), or hired someone for very cheap (slave labor with benefits). Due to their small company or greed, they have terrible writing that they are blind to. But customers and clients have a very fine-tuned detector for sloppy content.

Goose

Abundant errors that slip past your spell checker are one big factor make work look cheap. I have a few tricks that I use to help me edit my own work. But first, take a look at this passage which passes the red squiggle test:

“welcome to  nicks web site !  if you are looking fer clothe, shoos,, purse or moor, you have com too the the rite place!  are prices are low er then any other distributor on line!  we Cary all the Big Brands AS Well As lots s off smaller ones.”

Copy and paste that onto a WordPress editor and see that it passes. That’s why you don’t want to rely too heavily on your spell check tool. Below are my suggestions for supplementing your spell check.

Ctrl + F

Pressing these two buttons together brings up a search bar at the top right area of your screen. Type something into the bar and it will search the entire document for it. I like to search for two spaces in a row. This is handy because you should only be using one space during typing, including after punctuation. Additionally, it can be really hard to spot extra spaces with just your eyes. After you identify the offenders, you can go back and take one space away.

Don’t Guess on Capitalization

If you don’t know which words to capitalize, Google the phrase or rules. If there is any doubt in your mind, there’s a chance you are wrong, and your content will look odd to people who know better. You can eliminate this possibility with one of the greatest gifts of technology, given us by Alan Emtage–the search engine. This goes for spellings as well, but capitalization abuse is rampant.

Read Aloud

This rule is old but gold. Reading aloud causes you to go slower and pay more attention to the text. This especially helps with accidental repetition of small words like “the”.

Apply these tips to your latest document and see how it works. If you’re not already doing the third tip for your work, I’m shaking my head. Don’t underestimate its efficacy!

The Difference Between Copy and Content Writing

This article is intended for those that are either newbies in the world of Internet writing or for writers who are interested in writing fields other than copywriting and content writing. Why the latter? Because wouldn’t it look silly if you didn’t take merely the time it takes to finish this article before bouncing off to an interview and not knowing what anyone else did on your future team?

You can be sure when you’re looking at a piece of writing that it is copy if:

  1. Its sole purpose seems to be advertising.
  2. It kind of makes you feel like you should do something (if it’s good).
  3. You can really think about it and realize some things seem exaggerated (for the purpose of a sale).

gosling

The writing is probably content if:

  1. It just seems like an entertainment piece at first.
  2. It kind of makes you feel like returning to the website to read more (if it’s good). It builds a relationship with you.
  3. You really think about it and have trouble linking you reading it to making a sale.

In general, proof of good copywriting is increased sales, and proof of good content writing is increased views. Copywriting snares the impulsive, and content writing lures in the more thoughtful ones or simply gets more ad views. There is a lot of psychology involved the more you get into it.

Five SEO Tips

      1. Make your most important information in text and HTML.

In other words, describe your videos or anything that is “rich text”. If it’s a picture, a video or something else that uses a lotta bites, type a nice description if you want people to find it.

search_engine

      2. Match your titles to the rest of the content

It’s disorienting for search engines when you have an article about bearded men with long hair and your title is something like, “Stayin Alive”. You might make the connection, but the search engine won’t.

      3. Don’t use old SEO tips.

This field is constantly changing. You know what was different in, say, 2003? Little Nokia phones were the coolest, capri cargo pants were the height of fashion and SEO was a different animal. Businesses have been competing with each other for years to get their search results higher to the top. As search engines and society develops, so do the tricks of the trade.

      4. Link your links

Search engines cannot find other pages on your website without links.

       5. Don’t make a form to access your website.

I have one question for you if you do this and do not intend to be in the Deep Web: Seriously, what the hell? Besides the fact that practically no one is interested in becoming a member to view your website’s mysterious content, search engines cannot access whatever is behind logins. That is, unless your site is Facebook. Is it Facebook?