Tag Archives: Readability

Help readers understand when you explain

Noise is a big issue around airports. A jet taking off can produce an average of 100 to 120 decibels. That’s as noisy as it is in the front row of a rock concert. If, like airports, your business makes noise that’s affecting your neighbours, you want to show that you’re aware of the issue. […]

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Before & after: The Hemingway app judges direct mail

Last week, I got a letter from the publisher of Reader’s Digest, indicating I “could” be a winner. Ooh, I have a chance to earn a chance to win ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! The letter is a classic direct mail sales letter, complete with the required P.S., supposedly one of the most-read parts of such […]

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9 steps to readable writing

If you produce material that you hope will be read and understood, you can use readability tests to get an idea of how you’re doing. While researching road ecology – the study of the often deadly interaction of roads and nature – I ran across a guide called a “resource for students, citizens, government and […]

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Sigh. Still reason to be cranky about jargon

Time to get cranky, again, about jargon and annoying words. Who’s with me? First up are overused words that are quickly becoming jargon: Hacks. I get it, it’s a handy short word, which is useful in headlines. In most cases, it’s thin disguise for “tips,” as in “23 best productivity hacks of the year.” Killer. […]

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Ditch the jargon to make your point

Inc.com’s contributing editor, Geoffrey James, doesn’t sugarcoat it. In a piece called How Corporate-Speak Rots Your Brain and How To Stop It, he says jargon “makes you and everyone around you progressively less intelligent.” What’s more, rather than making you sound more intelligent, using words like “utilize” makes readers think less of you. The January […]

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Forgive me for suspecting lawyers are paid by the word

Wills are distasteful to begin with. You don’t want to think about someone dying, let alone squabble over who gets the investments and the heirloom silver, the stamp collection and the stacks of National Geographic. (I’m joking; we’re parceling out the old magazines every week in the recycling bin. Seriously, Dad, what were you doing […]

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4 ways to simplify your sustainability report

This time of year, corporate sustainability reports bloom like algae in a lake. These reports show the efforts a company makes to do the right things for the environment and the community. However, the language that describes what they do is often thick with jargon. And there’s no getting around multi-syllable words like “sustainable” and […]

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Avoid jargon monoxide with the Son Test

Newsletter articles and any other writing — speaking too! — can be improved if you cut out “hollow and meaningless” business language. This gobbledygook is also known as jargon monoxide, a wonderful term I discovered this week in a tweet by Stanford professor Bob Sutton, aka @work_matters. He in turn credits author Polly Labarre for […]

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Fight for readability with five easy fixes

The easier we make it to read our newsletters and other material, the more people will read, understand and retain. Sometimes copy reviewers – engineers and lawyers spring to mind – will challenge you. They’ll try to turn simple words into stilted, formal comments. Sentences will lengthen, stuffed full of every fact. Jargon and acronyms […]

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Writing for the web? Plan on impatient readers

“Write for impatient users.” If you take nothing else away from the latest study done by web usability expert Jakob Nielsen, that would be it. While Nielsen was specifically looking at how teens navigate online, you could make the case that everyone is impatient online. Think of how quickly you abandon ship when a site […]

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