Editing your text for readability – SEO copywriting training

By | August 25, 2019


In this video, we’re going to discuss
a key aspect of editing a text: auditing your text for words and sentences
that make it more difficult to read. Now this sounds very simple, but it can improve
your text a lot. Isn’t that what we all like? Quick fixes that you can apply immediately? Well, let’s dive into it, then! The rule of thumb is quite simple: the longer the word, sentence or paragraph,
the more difficult it is to read. This doesn’t *always* apply, but generally,
follow this rule and you’ll be good to go. And make no mistake: we use difficult words when simpler ones
are available so often. As I was writing this script,
in fact, I first wrote, “utilize difficult words when simpler
alternatives are available very frequently”. And then I thought:
“Oh wow, now I’m doing it myself: “utilize means the same as use, “I can say ‘ones’ instead of ‘alternatives’ and ‘often’ means exactly the same
as ‘frequently’.” So instead of “utilize difficult words when simpler alternatives
are available very frequently”, I’m saying “use difficult words when simpler
ones are available so often”. It’s just easier, isn’t it? And this is just one example,
but I do this all the time. And that’s a key point as well: sure, one difficult sentence
isn’t going to drive your visitors away. But these things tend to snowball. With every difficult word
and sentence you write, your text becomes just a *little* bit more
difficult to read. And it goes the other way as well. Any way you can make
your text easier to read without hurting your message will help. It’s not about dumbing down your text, it’s about making your message available
and accessible to more people. So the way you do this, is simply by going
through your text and asking yourself: can I word this differently? Can I make this sentence easier to read by choosing easier words
that mean the same thing? OK, so I gave you an example
of difficult words, but the same principle applies
to sentences. Long sentences can be a pain to read, especially if there’s a lot of them
in one piece. Again, using a long sentence here or there
is not the end of the world. It’s actually great: texts that *only* have short sentences
are often an absolute bore to read. You have to mix it up.
Keep your readers on their toes. Just try not to go over 20 words too often. Reading long sentences
requires a lot of energy. And it’s often unnecessary. Long sentences are often caused
by one problem. Many writers tend to put too much
information in one sentence. Just because thoughts are related, doesn’t mean they should all be
in the same sentence. Consider each separate idea
within a sentence and break up your sentence
into a few shorter ones. Then, connect the sentences
using transition words. I’ll give you an example
of a very long sentence: “Although it can be a challenge
to write shorter sentences, “it’s really important to do so, because
it makes your sentences easier to read, even if it requires a little more effort.” Now, let’s try to break it up
into shorter sentences: “It can be a challenge
to write shorter sentences. “Still, it’s really important
to make an effort to do so. After all, it makes your sentences easier
to read. It’ll be worth your while!” So, in short, check your text
for sentences that are too long. If more than say, a quarter
of your sentences is longer than 20 words, you can probably do better. Cut a 25 word sentence up
into two or three shorter sentences. This will go a long way in making
your readers’ experience a little bit smoother. There’s one big risk that you should avoid. Some people tend to write
what we call “fragments” when rewriting long sentences
into a few shorter ones. A fragment is an incomplete sentence. For example, don’t write:
“When we were working on our copy. We rewrote sentences
to make them shorter.” This sentence isn’t grammatically correct, because the first sentence
isn’t a sentence on its own; it’s actually a dependent clause
to the second sentence. We’ll give you some more examples of
dependent clauses in the reading materials. Another type of fragment is one where a sentence doesn’t have
a verb that corresponds to its subject, like the second sentence in this example: “One of the risks you can run into
is that you start writing fragments. A mistake people often make when trying
to make their long sentences shorter.” “A mistake” is a subject that needs a verb
(is, in this case), but it isn’t there. When you’re rewriting longer sentences
into shorter ones, always make sure your sentences
are independent clauses, unless you are making
a conscious stylistic choice. And remember, don’t apply everything
I’ve said too extremely. Don’t use the same word eight times
just because it’s simple. Do not write 7-word sentences exclusively. You want your text to be fun to read, so by all means, mix things up
if it improves your text. And if a more difficult word better describes
what you’re trying to say, go for it. But all things being equal, always make
the easiest option your first choice. You’ll notice the results,
and so will your readers.

2 thoughts on “Editing your text for readability – SEO copywriting training

  1. Richard J Chandler Post author

    I liked your example of breaking up a long sentence with transitions. Well done!

    Reply
  2. Larry Fields Post author

    Yes, it is dumbing down your text. Learn the English language and then I don't have to use simpler words. "Alternatives" and "frequently" are not difficult words to understand. These kind of words say that the writer has some level of education at least. Also, "make" happens to be a verb and doesn't require using "is" anywhere in that sentence.

    Reply

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