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Training Bulletin
issue 18

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Training Bulletin Issue 18

This is a new format for our bulletin and we would be very pleased to hear what you think – good or bad! email

How readable is your writing? In this issue we discuss how readability scores can help you target your writing to your readership.

Reading should be painless

Business writing has to sound business-like, doesn’t it? But too often this means dry, wordy and outright boring. Nobody reads business documents for the fun of it. (We hope this doesn’t come as a shock to too many of you.) People read them to get information, and they want that process to be as painless as possible.

Are you shooting yourself in the foot?

Are you choosing words that do other than inform? Look at the difference between these two sentences:

In the first one, you struggle to get to the point: oh, look, it says they’ve done it before. The second version essentially says the same thing, but at the other extreme of simplicity. In normal business writing, you ought to aim for something in between these examples.

The scores come from Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker. As they show, several factors make your writing more readable. An important one is the length of the sentences. Another is the length of the words: in the first example, the average word length is 6.3 letters; in the second, 4.2.

Average reading age in the UK is nine

This means that anything written for the public should have a reading score of 90 – 100. Mass market newspapers fall into this range. Broadsheets like The Telegraph or The Guardian aim for scores of 70 to 90, so are readable by 12 – 13 year olds. A typical best-selling novel can be read by 8 – 10 year olds.

Check your own readability

To check the readability of your writing using Word’s grammar checker, go to Tools – Options – Spelling and Grammar. Make sure that “Show Readability Statistics” is ticked. Then select the text you want to test and select Tools – Spelling and Grammar. At the end, it’ll ask if you want to check the remainder of the document. Click “no” and you’ll see the readability statistics. Here’s what the reading ease scores mean:
30 - 40 Very Difficult
40 - 50 Difficult
50 - 60 Fairly Difficult
60 - 70 Standard
70 - 80 Fairly Easy
80 - 90 Easy
90 - 100 Very Easy

If your document scores much less than 65, then your reader might struggle to understand your meaning. As I said earlier, nobody reads business documents for pleasure. Anything that makes it hard to grasp the content increases the likelihood that your writing won’t be read, or acted on.

The quickest fixes for hard-to-read documents are to:

Try checking your writing scores before and after doing these. Our writing courses include exercises to help you practise these ways to make your writing more readable.

Write to express not impress

At school or university, if you have to reach a word count, such as a 5,000 word essay, then it’s a survival skill to be able to pad your writing. Research is written in the passive voice, like this sentence.

But long words, waffle and passive sentences all make writing less readable. Employers often find that new graduates have the right tools for academic writing but not for business documents. They find it hard to change habits that have served them well for years. As a result, they may write documents without the clear structure and concise wording needed for business people in a hurry, and waste both their time and that of their readers.

If you have a graduate recruitment program, we can contribute to it by training your new staff in writing to communicate information rather than writing to impress.

Call 01235 60 30 22 or email to find out more, or check our course outlines.

Editor recommends

Learn more about ways of checking your readability, at:

Public course schedule

Follow this link for the dates of our public courses.

The price is £495 + VAT per person for a one-day course and £850 + VAT for a two-day course. Half day courses are £295 + VAT per person.

We also offer private courses at your premises. Please call 01235 60 30 22 for details.

How to book

To book, call Abi on 01235 60 30 22 ext 20 or use the booking form.

Kind Regards
The Plain Words Training Team

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