“Readability” is simply how easy it is to read and understand your text. Readability is the degree to which your members want to read what you send them, actually read it, and move to action. If your members aren’t reading your communications, you’re wasting time and money. Here are three tools to help make your communications more readable. Thanks to the North Shore Barrington Board of REALTORS® (Illinois) for agreeing to share one of their recent communications for our example.
TOOL #1: AttentionWizard
AttentionWizard creates a heat map of your document or webpage. It identifies hotspots and uses numbers to tell you where the eye goes and to which parts of the document your reader will pay the most attention. Below is a promotion flyer about an association’s Political Action Committee. On the left is the flyer as sent to members; on the right, AttentionWizard’s heat map of the flyer.
What NSBAR learned: The eye goes first to space around the title and draws the reader to the goal of the document (Good!) The eye next goes to bullet points—especially the area that reads $20 donation. Logos and addresses are also hotspots.
The area in the middle-right has the eye jumping from place to place. This signals an area for possible editing to cut text or make more concise.
TOOL #2: WeWe Calculator
One of the most common readability mistakes associations make is to talk about the organization and its products and services at the expense of talking about members and their needs. The WeWe Calculator is a free tool that analyzes text and reports on the percentage of customer (member) focus versus the percentage of self (organization) focus.
We took NSBAR’s same PAC flyer and submitted the text to the WeWe Calculator. Following are the results.
This communication focuses on the member slightly more than on the organization. Anything more than 50 percent customer focused is a good result. NSBAR’s flyer exceeds that level, but text could be re-examined to try to raise the customer focus score.
TOOL #3: Word Readability Statistics
If you’re using Microsoft Word, you have access to readability statistics at your fingertips. The Word tool analyzes your text for the number of characters, words and sentences (how many characters per word, words per sentence and sentences per paragraph), and for use of passive sentences. Based on this analysis, Word assigns a score for reading ease and a reading grade level.
Your document is more readable when:
1. You use very few passive sentences.
2. The Reading Ease score is less than 50.
3. The Reading Grade Level is 7.0 or below. (A score of 7 means a seventh grader can understand the document.)
Once again, we submitted the text from the NSBAR flyer (using text from the right side where AttentionWizard said the eye bounces around). Here are the Readability Statistics:
Overall, the readability is good for this text.
Another free tool to help you edit text for readability is Readability-Score.com. Paste your text for an immediate readability score and edit on the fly to improve your score. The site also lets you type in a website URL for a reading ease score.