Writing for Reading

Everyone on the marketing team is a writer sometimes. Whether you are writing copy for the website or advertisement, writing an email to a partner or business associate, or writing the content of an internal presentation, you will become a writer. And it is critical, in those times, to know who you are writing for.

Writers, those who do it for a living, develop a writing style. They write consistently in one way.

But for marketers, our writing style must adapt to the audience. We need to write for the people who will do the reading. No other form is acceptable.

Know Your Audience

The first question to ask yourself whenever you are set forth on a new writing task is, “who will be reading this?” The answer to that question should determine how you write.

I imagine that if you were writing an email to your CEO, it might read a little differently than an email you write to a peer. And that is exactly the point. We cater our messaging to our audience. So step one is – know your audience.

Readability is Key

Once you know your audience, you can begin writing. When doing so, or when you edit thereafter, remember that someone is going to have to read this. And the easier you make the reading, the more likely your writing will be effective.

Think of the copy on your website. Let’s use the product page as an example.

Who is it for? Prospective customers. You are writing for them. You want a prospective customer to read what you have written and then take the next step and complete a purchase, or request more information.

Studies show that the average adult reading level is 9 or lower. Unless all of your customers are literary critics or doctoral students, we must assume that their reading level is a 9 or lower. So therefor, since we are writing for them and not for us, we should write at a 9th grade reading level, or less.

The Hemmingway App is a great tool (and free) for this. You can copy and paste the text from your website (or anywhere else) and it will tell you the approximate reading level of that material. Not only that, but it will suggest ways you can make it easier to read.

The easier your writing is to read, the more effective it will be.