Have you ever read a boring report? Or rather, read the same text again and again, but still not taken it in? How can a boring report ever be a page turner? And how can your healthcare communications always be an utter joy to read? Here are my top tips for readability:
- Keep sentences short. This is single most important thing you can do to improve readability. People always underestimate the power of a short sentence. Don’t be one of those people.
- Vary the length of your sentences. We aim for an average sentence length no more than 14 words. An average of 14 words means some sentences should be long – anywhere from 25 to 40 words. Others should be short. Two or three words.
- Remember that rhythm is an important part of readability. A nice mix of short and long sentences is one of the ways to improve rhythm.
- Use tools like the Gunning Fog Index to check readability. For patients we aim for an ideal score of eight for universal readability but accept anything below 10.
- Use Vocab Grabber to check that you are saying what you intend to say. (Vocab Grabber is part of Visual Thesaurus – an essential subscription for any wordsmith). When I ‘Vocab Grabbed’ this blog I was happy with what I discovered.
- Never use a complicated word if there’s a simpler alternative.
If you feel that a piece ‘isn’t working’…
Don’t be put off. You can often put things right by deploying these tips and tools. It can take ages in the beginning; it isn’t easy. At Wordbird, we work very hard on readability, so when I see a patient webpage with a Fog Index of 20 (which has happened) I just can’t wait to get to work.