To read, or not to read: that is the question

Shakespeare said it first, decisions are often made with two possible outcomes in mind. To carry on, or to quit.  

This premise applies to the readability of marketing content. A customer chooses to either continue scrolling or to skip over a piece of writing. This thought process is shared by many and the result can be determined by how comprehensible the article or email is. 

Readability is the clarity of written words and how readers engage with the content.  

Engagement starts with the title. Readability is about more than the main body of your writing. You should aim to draw your reader in from the beginning. Regardless of the sector, marketers face the shared challenge of producing appealing content.  

Reading Age:  

Readability formulas help writers make their prose understandable and easy to follow.  Measures of readability determine the likelihood of your reader understanding the information you provide. They assess a variety of syntaxes, such as the length of your sentences, grammar usage and word choices.  

To put readability into context, the average reading age for an adult in the UK is 9 years old (See A Voice). As a marketing professional, it is imperative that you consider the readability of your content. Don’t unintentionally exclude readers by sending emails with complex legibility.  

On average, you should aim for a grade between 7-8, meaning that your text could be understood by a child in secondary school.  

The purpose of all content writing is to be attractive to the target audience. Even your font matters. The 2017 Social Media Marketing Report showed that 85% of marketing professionals use visuals in the delivery of their content. Typography and visual stimuli are vital because it lures the reader in and encourages them to continue reading.  

Why Readability matters in Marketing  

Readability is crucial for B2B marketing. A study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute highlights that the most effective B2B marketers allocate 42% of their overall budget to content marketing.   

Marketing emails signify the quality of your organisation. The message your business is trying to convey should be understandable, succinct and clear. Digital content must compel the client. If the subject matter is unclear and difficult to comprehend, this will give the impression that your company operates in a similar way. Poor readability unintentionally drives prospects away.  

To have the greatest impact, customers need to know what you are trying to say. Readability is important for the purchaser because it lets them know your aims in a clear and concise manner.  

Top 3 readability scales: 

1. Flesh-Kincaid

The Flesh-Kincaid test determines the level of education required to read your email with ease. This score derives a reading age based on word and sentence lengths. The easier a text is to read, the lower the grade. The generated scores range between 0-12. The recommended grade is 7 or below, allowing your text to be accessible to a wider audience.  

2. Automated Readability Index (ARI)

ARI assesses the reading age needed to understand your piece. This mark is generated from an assessment that focuses on sentence and word difficulty.  A score of 8 or below is advisable, which would make the text straightforward and readable by a 12-year-old.   

3. FORCAST formula

The FORCAST formula measures the clarity of a text that does not contain complete sentences. The reading age is calculated using the total number of words and monosyllables. This formula can be used on texts that don’t contain sentences, such as charts, questionnaires and inventories.  

The content in your marketing campaigns must be both engaging and informative. There’s no point having a factual document if no one can read it. Don’t water down your content – just approach it from a creative angle that will be captivating. Good readability will improve customer engagement. Writing with the awareness of readability will improve the impact of your marketing.  

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