We’ve previously written about why aiming for a good Flesch Reading Score helps improve your content quality. Reader-friendliness matters because it is common, especially in business writing, for articles to sound stilted and dry or lack personality. While you can’t expect to see jokes in an annual report or a legal document, marketing is supposed to humanize a brand. If not laughter, it should elicit emotions in the reader like shock, awe, or disgust. The problem is that many people don’t know how to write reader-friendly, conversational text.
There is so much content online, but so little that truly engages readers. It’s not surprising since primary education teaches us grammar and spelling, subject-verb agreement, and sentence patterns, but it does not show us how to connect with readers. Most people learned how to convince and persuade through delivering speeches or debates, which are still formal. There are very few schools with dedicated programs or units on making writing more reader-friendly. If you want to inject a little personality into your content, here are some tips that could help.
Focus On Clarity, Not Impressiveness
When you’re writing a note to a relative or recounting events to a friend, you probably don’t use jargon or complicated words—clarity, not impressiveness, is your focus. Also, it’s easier to see a writer’s conviction when they use simple words. Because of this, many beginning writers lean on complex words to mask their uncertainty. For example, take these two versions of a call to action for a company producing customer service software:
- Create a unified agent workspace using our CRM software. Track updates, make tickets and organize forms and fields to transform your CX operations today—try our demo to see how it works.
- Empower your team and meet people where they are with a complete customer experience solution. Watch our demo or register for a free trial today!
The second one lands better than the first, which loses the reader in industry jargon. Good conversations start with empathy. When you show readers that you understand their concerns and know their struggles, you can help and engage with them better. Your awards and achievements won’t comfort your audience—a listening ear or helping hand would.
Quit Talking to the Invisible Crowd
Many people who write don’t think of their audience. Or if they do, they have a vague image of a crowd listening to a speech. Good writers do not talk to the crowd—they have a specific person or group of people in mind when they speak. For example, if you want to announce something to a thousand anonymous blog readers, you might say:
Thank you for reading—subscribe to our email list for summaries and exclusive content.
Although it is perky and contains a call to action, the lines above are still arguably impersonal. It is something you could hear from a podium or a public address system and offers no hint of personality. Contrast this with how you speak with a subscriber who has been there since the start, someone who replies to your blog posts. You might say something like:
Seeing your comments always brightens our day, and we’d love to keep hearing from you. Subscribe to our email list, and let’s keep the conversation going!
Though the first one implies a welcoming attitude to readers, the second one is especially so. When you have an audience in mind, it is easier to write reader-friendly content. Remember to write something authentic, though—don’t say you love reading their comments if they don’t have any!
It Takes Two to Have a Conversation
When we write, we can’t see the person receiving our thoughts in real-time, so we often forget to engage readers. Many writers fall into self-importance, especially in content marketing. It’s natural—you’re hyping up a product or service—but it isn’t particularly effective at making people feel included. For example, when you say, “sign up for our free trial, and we’ll throw in a free e-book,” you’re referring only to your business. Both “our” and “we” are first-person pronouns, and the entire sentence centers on you instead of the audience.
Conversely, you could say, “Get an in-depth look into how you can market a startup with our e-book, free when you sign up for a seven-day trial!” It directs the reader’s attention to his concern (marketing a startup) while emphasizing the CTA (signing up for the trial). The sentence also uses the pronoun “you” more than “our.” Good conversations are about giving more than receiving.
Remember to Ask Questions
Questions make people think—they act as a visual indicator that the person must slow down and put a little more effort into processing the words on the page. Rhetorical questions are often more persuasive than statements. Saying “Do you want to gain more conversions?” has more of an impact than “You probably want more conversions.” Questions create an emotional investment in readers, so including one or two in your writing will help. Don’t pepper your posts with them, though—you don’t want the article to sound like an interrogation.
Keep Your Sentences Short
Corporate writing can sound tedious, and one reason for this is the length of sentences. Make your content readable—chop up your sentences. In school, you might have received praise for writing complicated sentences. It’s time to unlearn that. Keeping your sentences short will help them flow better, but don’t make them too short. They can turn out robotic that way as well!
Make your paragraphs more reader-friendly by varying the sentence length. For example, you can have five words in one sentence and seven in the next. You could also use transition words like “next” or “finally,” or use parallel sentence structures to show similarities between concepts.
Reader-friendly, conversational content helps companies establish strong connections with readers. When it is easy to read someone’s work, we tend to pay attention to what they say. One of your goals in content marketing is to establish your brand authority. To do that, you’ll need people to want to read your words first.
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