What should I do if my paragraphs are hard to read?
Inexperienced authors often make their writing too difficult to read. While it may sound strange, the most effective writers make their work easier to read, not harder. Good writing has accessible language which makes it more engaging.
If one or more of your paragraphs is flagged as hard to read, here’s how you can fix it:
1. Shorten your sentences
Long sentences are hard for readers to understand. Aim to keep your sentences at less than 10 words.
2. Use straightforward vocabulary
While your audience might recognize complicated words, you should almost always use more straightforward words instead. For instance, instead of saying “terminate,” say “end."
3. Get rid of jargon
When you use jargon (such as “due diligence”), you’re using domain-specific terms your audience might not know.
4. Ask yourself these questions
- Am I using easy-to-understand vocabulary?
- Are my sentences short and to the point?
- Am I using too much jargon?
- Am I writing in the active voice?
- Am I getting directly to my point without wandering around too much in my prose?
- Can I trim extra words from my sentences?
Remember, readability is influenced by a variety of factors. While simplifying your vocabulary will bring your readability down, you'll need to look at your document holistically to have the most effect.
Is Lowering My Readability “Dumbing Down” My Work?
Many writers feel like they need to show off their impressive vocabulary and flowery prose to legitimize themselves. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
Reading is all about comprehension. If the average middle school seventh grader can’t understand what you’ve written, then you’re creating confusion.
You want your reader to understand what you’ve written without working too hard. That means you need to make your language simpler, not more complicated. Making your work more complicated will actually lose you readers. Simplify instead, and gain them!