Writing is critical to your customers’ experience of your product, service, or website. Clear and concise writing that is easy for users to understand the first time they read it and take action on it is the essence of plain language.
By practicing and applying a few plain language tips, you’ll be able to improve your content and the experience for your customers overnight.
1. Know Your Customers
Know your customer and organize your content around their needs and the task they’re trying to complete. Things like user testing, usability studies, and persona development are just a few of the tools you can use to get to know your customer.
2. Be Conversational
So much content on websites doesn’t get to the point and sounds more like a computer rather than a conversation…you know, it doesn’t sound human. Mitigate this by using the same words your customers use and avoid jargon.
3. Use Active Voice
Sentences are easier to read and comprehend if they’re short, scannable, and action-driven.
4. Be Clear, Concise, & Useful
Your customers should understand what they read the first time they read it and know what the next step is.
5. Be Consistent
Organize content logically and use consistent layouts, word choices, and design treatments. This aids in scanning and comprehension. Design is as important as content, so give thought to layouts (for example, columns are the easiest to read online).
A Couple More Tips
Here’s a basic content structure that is considered easiest to scan and comprehend:
- Sentences = 15-18 best, 25 words max
- Paragraphs = 3-5 short sentences max
- Headings 3-5 per page
If you're ever curious about the readability of your text, there are online tools that like you check the reading level. Check reading level
One More Thing to Keep in Mind
It’s still all the rage even if some of the rules of the game have changed: Search. Engine. Optimization. SEO is one of the best reasons to stick with clear, concise, easy to understand content. And besides, at the end of the day, no one will ever complain if your content is easy to read and understand (even smarty-pants folks with above average vocabularies).