Insight October 31, 2016

Five Tips for Yummier Content


By Trish McLaughlin, Senior Copywriter

You cannot force-feed your audience content. The internet is an endless buffet of information, and your audience is going to fill their plate with what’s most appetizing. To boost your content’s appeal, try these tips.

  1. Use Flesch-Kincaid to carve your copy into bite-size pieces
    There’s a reason Flesch-Kincaid is now incorporated into spellcheck for Microsoft Word. Its formula crunches word length and sentence length to derive a readability score. A raw score on a scale of 1 to 120 converts to a grade level reading equivalent. For most audiences, a Grade Level 8 (score 60-70) is the target. For example, the FDA requires Grade 8 readability for patient-facing materials. Shortening sentences, using active voice, simplifying sentence structure, and using smaller words will improve readability scores and make your copy easier to digest.
  1. Check the mouthfeel
    Reading content aloud is an indispensable proofreading tool and makes you a better writer. It’s even more powerful when a co-worker reads your content to you. When you hear someone else read your content, your brain processes it differently and quickly knows where your copy misses the mark. Your co-worker’s furrowed brow is also helpful feedback. Keep a stack of Starbucks gift cards in your drawer to reward content guinea pigs.
  1. Simmer in AP style
    The AP Stylebook is the writing bible for most American journalists and PR professionals. Its fundamentals, such as using active voice, writing short paragraphs, and applying the inverted pyramid structure have helped journalists craft tastier content for decades. If you haven’t used AP style, start now.
  1. Season it for scanners
    Digital content writers will typically structure content for three attention spans — 3 seconds (headlines), 30 seconds (headlines, subheads and bullets), or three minutes (body content). The difference between now and 20 years ago is that more people scan. Pepper subheads, callouts, and bullets throughout your copy to help scanners move through your content.
  1. Let them eat with their eyes
    Audiences today want their information to look scrumptious and go down easy. Long articles with low readability are the equivalent of a Jell-O mold salad — with nuts. Garnish your content with pictures, infographics, icons, and video. Readers are far more likely to come back for seconds and share with friends.