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How you profit from a plain language website

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Whatever your goal, plain language makes a winner out of you. Here is your complete guide to profiting from plain language on your website (or anywhere else!)

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How you profit from a plain language website

  1. 1. How you profit from a plain language website A presentation from THGM Writers www.THGMwriters.com
  2. 2. What we’ll cover • What is plain language? • What is readability? • Why plain language matters? • How can you write in plain language?
  3. 3. What is plain language? Plain language is how we use: – words – sentence structure – other tools to be better understood by our readers. In general, smaller is better.
  4. 4. What is readability? • Readability is an algorithm. • It is one part of plain language. • It measures how easy a text is to read. • It does not measure how clear the message is.
  5. 5. What readability measures • Length of words • Length of sentences • Length of paragraphs • Passive vs. active voice (sometimes)
  6. 6. Sample readability results Before editing: After editing:
  7. 7. Recommended reading levels • Most experts recommend a readability level of under Grade 8. • This includes for target markets of high school graduates and university graduates. • Everybody reads better at a Grade 8 level.
  8. 8. The UK government says: • When you use a longer word (8 or 9 letters), readers are more likely to skip shorter words. • So if you use longer, more complicated words, readers will skip more.
  9. 9. The UK government says: Do not say this: “The recently implemented categorical standardisation procedure on waste oil should not be applied before 1 January 2015.” Do say this. “Do not use the new waste oil standards before 1 January 2015.”
  10. 10. The UK government says: • Children quickly learn to read common words (the 5000 words they use most). • They then stop reading these words and start recognising their shape. • This allows people to read much faster. • Children already read like this by the time they’re 9 years old.
  11. 11. The UK government says: • People don’t read one word at a time. • They bounce around - especially online. They anticipate words and fill them in. • This is why we tell people to write on GOV.UK for a 9 year old reading age.
  12. 12. The UK government recommends:
  13. 13. The US government recommends:
  14. 14. The Canadian government recommends:
  15. 15. Why plain language matters • The more people understand your page, the more successful it will be. • The easier it is for people to read your page, the more successful it will be. • The more people read your page, the more successful it will be.
  16. 16. Benefits of plain language • Wider audience • Happier customers • Page views increase • Fewer words needed • Time on page increases • Higher conversion rates
  17. 17. Benefits of plain language Wider audience: The easier your text is to read… • the more people are capable of reading it • the more people will make the effort to read it • The more people will share it
  18. 18. Benefits of plain language Happier customers: • Customers get sore when they have difficulty understanding what to do • Customers get sore when they do the wrong thing. • They are happier when things are easy and go smoothly.
  19. 19. Benefits of plain language Page views increase: • Plain language focuses on words people really use. • It has a better readability score. • Search engines send those pages more traffic.
  20. 20. Benefits of plain language Fewer words needed. Plain language reduces convoluted sentence structure. Fewer words and easier reading means that more people will read the full page.
  21. 21. Benefits of plain language Time on page increases. The fewer people get frustrated trying to understand your text, the more people will keep reading. If it feels like work, they’ll leave.
  22. 22. Benefits of plain language Higher conversion rates, because: • More people read your text. • People keep reading your text. • More people understand your text.
  23. 23. Top tips to write in plain language • Use bullet lists. • Use simple words. • Use common words. • Use the active voice. • Use short sentences. • Use short paragraphs. • Use the positive form. • Use a single word whenever possible. • Lead with most important information.
  24. 24. Top tips to write in plain language Use bullet lists. Even small lists of three items are much easier to read in bullets. Plus it breaks up the solid blocks of text on your page.
  25. 25. Top tips to write in plain language Use simple words. • “use” instead of “utilize” • “buy” instead of “purchase” • “better” instead of “superior” • “start” instead of “commence” • “about” instead of “related to” • “start” instead of “initiate”
  26. 26. Top tips to write in plain language Use simple words. These are easier to read, especially when there are complex words around them. Remember the UK research. People recognize these words visually, without having to “read” them. Let’s look at a few examples.
  27. 27. Top tips to write in plain language Use simple words. Read here how easy it is to do: Download a free copy
  28. 28. Top tips to write in plain language Use common words. People read without stopping. If they have to stop to think about what they are reading, you lose them. Always use the easiest word to understand, so that readers don’t have to stop to think.
  29. 29. Top tips to write in plain language Use the Active voice. Here is the format to use: – Subject – Verb – Object – Place or time
  30. 30. Top tips to write in plain language Use the Active voice. Don’t say: “It was reported that…” Do say: “The Agency reported that…” Don’t say: “Tests were conducted…” Do say: “We tested…”
  31. 31. Top tips to write in plain language Use short sentences. • Use the active voice. • Use more direct language. • Break up complex sentences. • Make bullet lists from long sentences.
  32. 32. Top tips to write in plain language Use short sentences. Don’t say: “They made a commitment to terminate the program.” Don’t say: “They committed to the termination of the program.” Do say: “They promised to end the program.”
  33. 33. Top tips to write in plain language Use short paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs make a page easier to read because they look less imposing. If it looks like work, they won’t even start reading. Make it easy to start.
  34. 34. Top tips to write in plain language Use the positive form. Tell people what to do, not what to not do. Don’t say: “Don’t use more than 5 at a time.” Do say: “Use only 5 at a time.” Don’t say: “Don’t plant seeds before May 2nd.” Do say: “Plant seeds after May 2nd.”
  35. 35. Top tips to write in plain language Use a single word whenever possible. Don’t say: “in relation to” Do say: “about” Don’t say: “made the decision to” Do say: “decided” Don’t say: “gave advice to” Do say: “advised”
  36. 36. Top tips to write in plain language Lead with the most important information. People are busy. Many readers won’t keep reading. Give the the most important information in the first paragraph. This is called “inverted pyramid” writing.
  37. 37. Top tips to write in plain language Extra tip! Break up huge blocks of text with: • Images • Bullet lists • Subheadings • Pull-out quotes • Shorter paragraphs
  38. 38. You win with plain language. • Whatever your goal, you’ll be more convincing if you make it easy for your audience to: – read – understand – act • We can help: www.THGMwriters.com

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