Do you have too much to read? Memos, reports, letters, e-mails, leaflets, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, direct mail? And are they breeding like wire coat hangers?
Well, in a survey some years ago, US business leaders were asked what change they would most like to see in business. They didn’t talk about accounting or strategy. The majority pleaded: “Teach people to write better.”
They just had too much written garbage to plough through. We all do. If you read most stuff put out nowadays it is appalling. Badly written, dull – and often downright incomprehensible.
Yet bad writing is not necessary if you can just count.
This was discovered by Rudolph Flesch, an American, who spent years in the 1940’s researching what makes for easy reading. As a result he formulated some very easy rules.
The simplest is, make your sentences short. The easiest sentence to take in is only eight words long. A sensible average is 16 words. Any sentence of more than 32 words is hard to take in.
That’s because most people tend to forget what happened at the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to the end. You must make it easy for people.
And the same applies to paragraphs. Vary them, but keep them short, containing only one or two thoughts – especially the first one. A long opening paragraph is daunting.
And happily Microsoft Word has a tool partly based on Flesch which will help you. Just go to Tools/Option/Spelling & Grammar/Show readability statistics. If you use that option it automatically tells you how readable your stuff is.
Oh – and whatever you do, ignore their grammar suggestions – they’re 100% useless.
But that’s another story.