When writing documentation, marketing content, or training materials, keeping the audience in mind is an important step in producing effective content.
Sometimes, you may be asked to limit your writing to a specific reading level so it’s accessible to a broad range of users.
You can monitor the reading level of a document by turning on the readability statistics option in the proofing settings of Microsoft Word. This activates the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level measurement, which calculates the number of years of education needed to comprehend the text.
Here are some tips on how to write for an eighth-grade reading level:
Keep It Simple
Remember that everyone has a different vocabulary base. As often as possible, replace complex words with simpler ones. For example, write “use” instead of “utilize” or “start” instead of “commence.”
A good sign that a word may need to be replaced is a high number of syllables in it. One-syllable words are ideal, and you should try to keep all words to no more than three syllables. However, don’t sacrifice clarity during this process. If the new word alters the meaning of the sentence, then you should avoid changing it.
Keep It Short
Another way to reduce the reading level of your writing is to shorten the length of your sentences. If you have a lot of compound or complex sentences, break them up into several shorter ones. You can also eliminate unnecessary words.
For example, “Mentally imagine someone who is playing the game of tennis” could be simplified to, “Imagine someone playing tennis.” You can also turn sentences into bulleted lists, which are useful in clearly presenting key points. In addition to adjusting sentence length, find ways to split your writing into manageable “chunks.” If doing so doesn’t interrupt the flow of the content, break a paragraph of eight sentences into two paragraphs of four sentences.
Keep It Clear
There are other ways to make your writing easier to understand that aren’t calculated with the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level measurement. Provide concrete examples for abstract ideas. Insert graphs or pictures that explain difficult concepts or contribute to the learner’s understanding of the text.
Writing for a reduced reading level requires precision. Take your time, and ensure that even with the simple language, you’re still conveying the right message.
To learn more about writing audience-specific documentation, contact us today!