Ever heard of the phrase “content is king”? In the information-saturated internet, this is quite true. The biggest factor that distinguishes good websites from bad ones is the quality of their content. And a big factor here is readability.
By far the most widely used kind of content is the article.
Some would call it a blog post. Whatever you prefer to call it, one thing is certain: It is made up of words. It is something you can read. Like the things you find in a newspaper or a magazine.
But of course, not every article in newspapers and magazines are a joy to read. By extension, not every article on the web is a joy to read. Worse still, there’s much more rubbish in the internet, because it’s so easy to publish there.
Certainly you’d want your articles to stand out, yes? In that case, perhaps a few changes to your writing style is in order. Take these two tips for improving the readability of your content.
1. Use active voice
This is an issue of sentence structure. To make it easier to visualise, compare these two sentences:
- You will be given instructions by John later.
- John will give you instructions later.
The first sentence is in passive voice, whilst the second one is in active voice. In both sentences, “John” is the person who will give the instructions to you. In other words, “you” are the receiver of the action, while “John” is the giver. The difference lies in who’s the subject of each sentence. In the first one, it’s “you”; in the second one, it’s “John”.
In active voice, the doer of the action is the subject of the sentence.
On the other hand, passive voice is when the receiver of the action is the subject. Notice how much more engaging active voice is. It sounds very natural, while passive voice sounds so robotic. Remember how you learned to write sentences in elementary school? It was always active voice that time:
- I ate an apple this morning.
- I walked my dog yesterday.
- I will play Monopoly tomorrow.
Active voice is the natural order of sentences in the English language. The subject of a sentence is often the doer of the action. It’s easier to read, and less confusing too.
For this reason, don’t you often wonder why contracts and other legal documents are so fond of passive voice? It even seems that they’re designed to be ignored. I doubt if there’s anyone in the world who can honestly say they enjoy poring through legal documents. Their readability is just terrible.
But you, as a writer, have a choice. You can write in a boring way, or you can write in an exciting way. So for the love of your readers, choose active voice.
2. As much as possible, avoid nominalisation
Nominalisation is exactly like the first word in this sentence – almost any word that ends in “-ation”. So you have:
and other similar words. Notice that these words have verb forms, which are, respectively:
Again, notice how much more exciting the verb forms sound? It’s just like active voice and passive voice again.
Nominalisations are like the passive voice equivalent of verbs.
They sound less engaging and more boring. Take a look at the two sentences below:
- The company aims to increase its production of units by 30% this year.
- The company aims to produce 30% more units this year.
The difference is clear. The second sentence sounds a lot more natural and easier to read than the first one. In the first place, both “increase production of units by 30%” and “produce 30% more units” mean exactly the same thing, so why not use the simpler version? If people can comprehend it easier that way, then by all means go for it. Writing in a way that’s easier to understand will surely bring up your readability.
Just these two guidelines will make a significant impact in your writing. More people will enjoy reading your work, and you’ll grow your audience more easily. So get out there, keep writing, and keep improving!
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