The Fastest Ways to Make your Text More Readable

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Do colleagues and clients sometimes struggle to follow your English writing?

Maybe it’s a detailed blog post about an industry event, or a key scene in a story you are working on.

Readers are in more of a hurry nowadays, but more than that, successful English texts tend to be quite simple in their construction. It’s still possible to convey great meaning with simpler text and these tips will help you make your writing more readable.


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1 | avoid technical language


What you don’t want, is for your reader to have to stop, and grab a dictionary. George Orwell said “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.” Writing in plain language helps your audience understand your content the first time they read your copy.


2 | shorten your sentences


In some languages, long sentences with multiple clauses are the norm. Not in English. English readers struggle to follow the thread of a sentence after three clauses or more than about twenty words. Of course, variety is good, so don’t stick to a formula for sentences. Just don’t let them get out of control!


3 | active not passive


Especially in fiction and creative writing, readers prefer the active voice. ‘The door opened’ NOT ‘The door was pushed open.’ Active constructions use fewer words and allow the reader to engage with the person or subject performing the action. 




4 | choose short words whenever possible


Speakers of Latin based languages beware. Although English has many Latinate cognates, they tend to be longer and more ‘academic’ sounding. Use one or two-syllable Germanic words where you can.

Have NOT possess
Ask NOT inquire
Get NOT acquire
Buy NOT purchase

5 | Use ‘white space’


Paragraph breaks and space between is just as important as the text itself. In character based languages, texts can appear as heavy blocks, as readers can decipher the meaning by recognising symbols. However, in English, readers process the meaning in each section of text by its relation to the space around it.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab recommends the following guidelines when constructing paragraphs:


Each paragraph should focus on one single idea or concept
Include three to five sentences in each paragraph
Look at each page to see if your paragraphs are balanced


I would add to the final point and advise you to look at examples of what you are writing in English — emails, reports, poetry. Zoom out and look at a page of a book or document. Does the shape and space in your text match the examples you are reading?


6 | Use the tools at your disposal.


Modern English is much more flexible and forgiving in terms of techniques writers can use to make text easier to consume. Highlight important ideas and terms with lists, titles, ‘quotation marks’ boldface type, italics or punctuation symbols —like the em dash—, *or asterisks*.


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For language tips and resources download the FREE eBook How to Become a Proficient English Writer.

If you want to avoid all this and improve your writing, send me a message today.
Let me see if I can help you and give some advice.