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.

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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

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“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…”

Yuck.

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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. 🙂

Libelous Masterpieces (U.S. Guide)

Every writer should be aware of the legality of their pieces and the potential to be sued, not just journalists. Journalists certainly have to be aware of what could be considered slanderous, because they always dealing with real people, but writing about real people is not something only done in journalism. Here are a few topics on libel to consider. (And by the way, slander = spoken word and libel = written word).

Satire & Parody

If you’re writing satire, you are mostly exempt from being sued. Mostly. New laws come about because cases that make it to the Supreme Court and present new issues. The world is constantly changing. If you plan on going high profile with your satirical works, I recommend getting a law book. I am not kidding. It gets complicated.

Your Facebook

You can actually be sued for posting things on your Facebook and other social media accounts. I would really reconsider before you post to Sally’s timeline and try to get everyone to believe she slept with her boss to get a promotion. On the other hand, if you’re talking about public figures (there are criteria to determine what a “public figure” is), then it is unlikely you affect their reputation in any way, so go ahead and let everyone know that you think President Obama himself caused the stock market to crash.

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Oops!

You submit first-person pieces to a very well-known political website for a living. You finish your article about what everyone was doing outside of your local voting booth when they were waiting to cast their ballot for the next governor. The next day you find out your company is being sued for libel because they published your piece, despite the fact that you had lazily researched some technical information that you didn’t know and made the Democratic candidate look like a fool! Luckily, this was negligence, not actual malice, which are legal terms that determine different consequences.

Don’t lose any sleep over this. Just be aware that your company getting sued over you will probably mean the loss of your job…Be conscious when you write about real people!