Readability helps everyone

You’re not dumbing it down; you’re lifting it up

It never fails.

When I talk in my writing workshops about the importance of making copy easy to read and understand, there’s always one communicator who can’t believe the advice applies to her.

Readability helps everyone

Reading ease Even highly literate audiences benefit from easier-to-read copy. And what’s dumb about that? Image by Gaelle Marcel

“Are you kidding?” she gasps. “I’m writing to surgeons / executives / pharmacists /school district superintendents/engineers/financial planners/horse breeders. These folks are superbly educated, brilliant and smart as a whip. There’s no way they’ll read anything that easy.”

Let’s leave aside for now the fact that just 2% of your audience can read at the 11th grade level, according to the 2013 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC.

I’ve always argued that if you think your audience members are especially elevated or educated, then you should make your copy more readable. Executives, surgeons and other highly educated readers, after all, tend to have more stuff to read and less time to read it. So we need to make messages for those folks even easier to process.

But now there’s new evidence that we should make all of our communications — even those written to highly educated, highly literate readers — easier to read and understand.

Nobody wants it to be harder

Related stories

“Plain language does not mean baby talk or dumbing down the language. It means clear and effective communication.”
— Joseph Kimble, chair of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Research & Writing Department

Write for Readability

Reach readers, improve communication — even boost the bottom line — by making your messages more readable

“The problem with communication,” said George Bernard Shaw, “is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

Write for Readability

It’s clearer now Get messages across by making them easy to read and understand. Image by Ewan Robertson

No kidding. Send out a message that’s written at the 11th grade level, for instance, and 97% of U.S. adults won’t be able to understand it, according to the Department of Education’s latest adult literacy test.

Mission: Not accomplished.

At Cut Through the Clutter — our two-day concise-writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San Francisco — you’ll dive into the results of this massive worldwide literacy study to get a reality check on the level at which your readers really read. (Prepare to be depressed!)

Then you’ll find out how to write easy-to-read messages that get more people to read your piece, read more of it, read it faster, understand it better and remember it longer.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Write at a reading level that really reaches readers. Chances are, you’re vastly overestimating your audience members’ literacy rate, according to a massive international study.
  • Plan your communications for special audience challenges. Older people, health care consumers, mobile users — maybe even your CEO — may need more help than you realize.
  • Sell your boss on the bottom-line business value of making messages more readable. (The U.S. Navy, for instance, saved more than $27 million in officer time by increasing readability.)
  • Increase reading by up to 75% by making one change to your message.
  • Measure, monitor, manage and report readability — your No. 1 tool for making your messages more effective.

This is our final Cut Through the Clutter workshop for 2017. Don’t miss out. Register now.

Save up to $100 each with our group discounts.

“This workshop was incredibly valuable. I think taking these stats and research back will be so helpful when talking to executives about why things should change and how that will be helpful.”
– Karla Best, communications specialist, Noblis

Polish your skills at these Master Classes

Learn to Master the Art of the Storyteller, Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more

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Portland | July 27-28

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San Francisco | Aug. 17-18

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Kansas City | Nov. 16-17

Register for Write For The Web and Mobile: Ann Wylie’s online-writing workshop in Miami on Dec. 11-12, 2017

Miami | Dec. 11-12

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Save when you book a workshop while I’m in your neighborhood

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Johnson, RI: Aug. 7-11
  • Kansas City: Nov. 16-17
  • Memphis: Nov. 2
  • Miami: Dec. 11-12
  • Minneapolis: Oct. 3-4
  • New York: Sept. 25-26
  • Plano, TX: Oct. 19-20
  • Portland: July 27-28
  • Roseville, CA: Oct. 24
  • San Francisco: Aug. 17-18

Keep up with my calendar.

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