Seven tips to writing in plain English.
“I don’t need a writer. I learnt to write essays at university, so I can do my own copywriting.”
I heard words to this effect once when I explained my services to another business owner. It’s quite common for people to believe they can do their own copywriting because they know how to write.
But sales copy or marketing content written in long sentences, lengthy words, and technical jargon can lose you customers. Just like those times I’ve given up on a 19th century classic novel. Because I couldn’t engage with lengthy prose and archaic language. And your prospect won’t be engaged with your message if your copy is hard to read.
To avoid this, you need to write in plain English. Copywriting in plain English, will win you:
- More clicks
- More shares
- More sales
- More leads
- More website visits.
The formula to writing in plain English.
There are many readability formulas and apps which can help you write in plain English. Among these are the Hemingway App, Grammarly, and the Flesch-Kincaid reading score. For plain English, you need a Flesch-Kincaid score of between 60 and 70, that’s a reading age of between 11 and 13. Academic writing scores between 30 and 10.
You can check your Flesch-Kincaid score on the Review tab of Microsoft Word. Go to File Menu>Options>Proofing tab. Under ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ tick the box for ‘Show readability statistics.’ As you can see my Flesch-Kincaid score for this article was 68.5.
Seven secrets to achieving plain English.
- Write in short sentences.
The length of your sentences should be under 25 words and use one sentence for one idea.
2. Use short words.
The fewer syllables your word contains the better. If you think of a long word, check there isn’t one shorter.
3. Avoid long paragraphs.
A paragraph should contain two to three sentences and each paragraph should make one point.
4. Use the active voice.
The active voice is easier to read than the passive voice, and it has more impact. The active voice is when the subject comes before the action in a sentence.
Here’s an example: Active voice – ‘The company made 10% more profit after increasing their content marketing output.”
Passive voice it’s: “After content marketing output was increased the company made 10% more profit.”
5. Get rid of jargon.
It may look clever to use technical or legal terms, but to communicate your message needs to understand them.
6. Don’t be long-winded.
Why use three words when one will do? Instead of writing ‘at the present time’ choose ‘now.’
7. Read texts written in plain English.
Reading makes you a better writer. For inspiration for how to write in plain English read:
- The BBC News website.
- Newspapers and news websites.
- Children’s books such as Harry Potter — written for children aged 9-14.
Are you finding plain English copywriting harder than your university dissertation? Outsourcing to a copywriter will save you time and effort and will get results. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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