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

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“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…” Part II

Part I for those who missed it

Maybe you have decided that if people just want cheap thrills in their reading, you are going to cater to that. The following points are something you should consider before stringing cliches like beads to create a new story.

It Has Probably Been Done Before

You won’t be the first person to create a thrilling murder mystery, a forbidden romance, commentary on a political situation or a summary of interesting content. For every thrilling idea that occurs to you, there are probably thousands of books and articles already using it.

However, readers seem to greatly enjoy reading several books or articles with the same plots of premises. I know I do. I can read a hundred articles online about certain types of birds because I have owned them as pets. But I’m not going to read the same set of facts over and over. I like it when writers bring in their individual stories to help explain points or add a dash of humor.

Don’t underestimate how a focus on details can make a reader want to be carried along through what is essentially the same hill he’s gone over many times before only with different scenery.

Look at the News

There is a reason why journalistic writing is plain; the pure, newsworthy plot moves everything along and keeps readers engrossed. Despite this, most journalists are still taught to avoid cliches, because people also appreciate a touch of creativity. If a piece with an exciting plot that has the added benefit of being real avoids cliches, that should tell you something.

You Can’t Go Too Crazy

In the pursuit of creating something no one has ever seen, you may get very wild with your story. There are two major points to recognize before trying this.  This mainly applies to fictional works.

Readers Will Lose Interest in a Totally Wild Idea

In a world where anything can happen at any moment, people are not as invested in wondering about what happens next. Additionally, people want to relate to what they read to immerse themselves. That’s why fantasy is a difficult genre for a lot of people to be successful with. If you write a story where a talking eagle rides on the backs of dolphins searching for a sacred pine cone disco ball floating out in sea, you better be one hell of a writer.

eagle

It’s Probably One of the Same Recycled Ideas Anyway

Chances are, no matter how wild your plot gets, you can put it in one of many boxes filled with others of its kind. That eagle story is just a jazzed up version of a classic adventure story in pursuit of an artifact.

These points are why writing skill matters!

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!

A Set of Tips for the Storytellers

Fiction writing is fun for most of us. The option is there to create a set of characters that interact just perfectly with each other to move the exciting plot along. It’s an amazing experience to inject every location, repertoire, description, etc. into the most customized piece of entertainment for yourself.

blue_jay

Here lies the danger. Ever visit reddit.com/r/writing? (I know, I know, the first rule of Reddit is to never talk about Reddit.) The writing section is almost wholly dedicated to fiction writing. And don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. I know most of us write fiction because of the feeling of having our adventures customized. That said, most of the shared stories are simply awful. Below is a list of my personal pet peeves.

When writing fiction, do not:

  • Over-describe

    Instead of loading down your sentences with adjectives, how about picking a stronger noun? Wouldn’t it be easier on the reader to picture a golden, gleaming braid than a braid pulled and wrapped with no stray hair, showing the shine on every pale wheat-colored bump? Maybe it’s the copywriter in me, but using fewer words helps to deliver the idea more efficiently.

  • Give people artificial dialogue

    Read it aloud. One of the most frequent offenders in my opinion is “brother” or “sister”. I don’t address my siblings like that, and neither does anyone I know. In a similar vein, another one is making people sound very proper. People just don’t eloquently get a message out every time.

  • Forget context

    Many writers forget essential information that clue the reader in on what is happening. Experienced writers can use this to their advantage to make the reader question if they have missed something or it’s all part of a plan to pleasantly surprise the reader with the missing information down the road.

Fiction is not really my forte, but I hope you enjoyed my advice nonetheless. Some subreddits I have discovered that fall in line with my interests are /r/SEO, /r/webmarketing, /r/socialmedia…There really are so many at our fingertips!

 

A Day in the Life of ‘The Wrong Fit’

You wake up early and get some coffee before opening up your laptop. You read your company’s emails and sigh importantly. You think to yourself, Its a great day too get there act together. (These things can physically hurt me to write. But just bare with me.)

Moving on, you read today’s assignment. It’s too easy. You just need to write about texting and driving. You crack your finger joints and begin.

Lots of people text and drive these days.

A word comes to your mind. Two words come to mind, in fact. They are “research” and “statistics”. You can’t remember how the first one is relevant, and isn’t statistics that math class you failed in college?

Texting and driving is bad, you continue. Texting and driving can get you into an accident. Texting and driving isn’t the only option on the road. Driving can be done without texting. Texting and driving–don’t do it.

traffic

Oh yeah, now you’ve got those keywords in. This assignment is coming along beautifully.

Two months down the road, your boss reviews your work and tells you that you are probably not the right fit. Surprise.

Based on this article by Chris Goddard on SERPs. It’s from an employer’s point of view.

Sentence Structure Should Be Your Friend

Let’s play a little game called, ‘Did You Have a Stroke This Morning?” The rules are as follows. If you can make your employer say, “Did You Have a Stoke This Morning?” you’ve won. If you gather enough wins, you can get the grand prize of unemployment.

Just for funsies, let’s have a couple rounds. You’re my boss, and you quickly start losing respect for my work.

a) Everybody should own a vacuum cleaner. Our vacuum cleaner is a great deal. You need to buy this product now. There are only twenty left in stock. Be our satisfied customer.

b) I love spring days, and nothing says spring like the first spring flowers. There’s nothing like that scent, and I am a scent aficionado. I went walking this morning, and I observed a lot of other spring-like things. I noticed birds singing, and it was the most beautiful sound I have heard in a while.

singing

These flow awkwardly because the sentences are too similarly structured. Rarely is anyone going to be this poor of a writer, but if you get a complaint that your writing doesn’t “flow” despite you including every detail, it is likely you have chunks of your work that rise and fall in a way that is too patterned. It becomes sing song. Let’s fix  a) and b) now.

a) Everybody should own a vacuum cleaner, and you should be able to get deal on it. Buy it now–only twenty left in stock. Be one of our satisfied customers today.

b) I love spring days, and nothing says spring like the first spring flowers. Even as a scent aficionado, there’s nothing like it. I observed a lot of other spring-like things when I embarked on my walk this morning. Birds singing, for example, was the most beautiful sound I have heard in a while.

I’ve now failed twice. Maybe I get my job back. Hm, I’ll have to consult the rule book.