|Readability Statistics in Microsoft Word|
But what if how you write actually gets in the way of communicating clearly? The answer to this dilemma is readability. Readability is a score given to text that tells you how easy it is to understand. It's not the end-all of determining clarity but it's a needed first step.
According to usability expert Jakob Nielson: "Users won’t read web content unless the text is clear, the words and sentences are simple, and the information is easy to understand." Instructional content is similar. When people are frustrated, they will skim or ignore what we write.
I write about how to test readability in my book (Microsoft Word will calculate readability for you > Look under Word Options) and the steps needed to make content more readable. Here are two of the steps:
- Use simpler and more understandable words.
- Break apart long sentences into shorter sentences.
Recently, I've run across some good readability resources and wanted to share them.
- Nielsen Norman Group Legibility, Readability, and Comprehension: Making Users Read Your Words: A clear discussion of the importance of usability.
- Readability.io: Explains readability, the types of scores, and how to use them.
- MakeUseOf 8 Readability Web Tools to Test Your Writing Quality: List of online tools you can use to test readability
Knowing your audience, calculating readability scores, and writing for the needs of your audience are ways to make your instruction more learnable, better for remembering, and application.