Adam Fisher
26th November 2018 - 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Magazine Guide

Aimee Hudson 20th March 2018 — 4 mins read
C

ompanies have become their own publishing houses, producing regular magazines aimed at informing, entertaining and evoking loyalty in their customers.

And the ones who do it well produce compelling content which is a long way from the sort of advertorial type material you may traditionally expect from branded print.

One of the great strengths of brand magazines is that if they are good, people will keep hold of them for longer than other promotional material. They also offer something different from the digital bombardment many customers face.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

The Red Bulletin

The Red Bulletin has all the high-octane, adrenaline fuelled and adventure packed articles you would expect to read from a brand which makes energy drinks and runs Formula One teams. 

But among the stories on extreme sports, like cliff-diving and rock-scaling, are features on more sedate pursuits, lifestyle activities and interviews with high-profile actors and musicians.

The monthly magazine, which is illustrated with stunning images, is distributed in London alongside the Evening Standard newspaper and is also available at universities and gyms.

Subscriptions are also available, while the magazine is backed by its own eye-catching website.

 

The Furrow

 

John Deere began publishing The Furrow long before the term ‘content marketing’ had first been used.

The first issue was published back in 1895 and is widely regarded as being the oldest example of content marketing. The publication is still going strong today with around two million global readers.

The magazine focuses on the farmers themselves and the current issues in farming, providing informative content, rather than promoting the equipment John Deere sells.

Such is its enduring appeal that it is now printed in 14 languages and is available online.

 

ASOS

 

You might think that a printed magazine is an unlikely fit for an online only fashion retailer aimed at the 18-34 crowd.

But ASOS began producing its self-titled magazine in 2007 and celebrated its 100th issue in February this year. It has proved a huge success reaching around 700,000 people globally, 450,000 of these in the UK.

It has attracted stars such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lawrence to its front page and interviews like these prove it is far more than a catalogue.  

This glossy publication is backed by an online audience of more than 120,000.  

 

Traveller

 

In flight magazines first started appearing in cabins more than 60 years ago, when they were introduced by Pan Am, and are one of the oldest versions of brand magazines.

Despite smartphones and Wi-Fi increasingly creeping into planes, these magazines continue to go from strength to strength with around 150 printed around the globe.

United’s offering, Rhapsody, is often cited as an example of a good brand magazine, but unfortunately you’ll only get to read it if you book first class.

Despite its somewhat unimaginative title, easyJet’s Traveller magazine is our pick from the in-flight market.

It is a stylish monthly publication, packed with a wide range of content. A recent edition, for example, ranged from looking at the latest crop of bands to emerge from Liverpool to an article on the charms of Comporta, in Portugal.

And if you miss a copy they are all available digitally on the magazine’s own section of the easyJet website.

 

Waitrose Weekend

 

This breaks the mould of the other publications we’ve mentioned as it is printed in a newspaper format—in fact, when it was first published in 2010 it was the first free newspaper published by a retailer.

The 48 page publication, free every Thursday, has the look of a quality Sunday supplement and all the articles on food, drinks and cooking you would expect in a publication produced by a supermarket and aimed at Middle England. 

But it also features celebrity interviews, a health and fitness section (with Pippa Middleton no less), a guide to events taking place around the country, a gardening section and TV reviews.

And like any good newspaper, it features an impressive number of high-profile columnists including Jeremy Vine, Clare Balding, Stuart Maconie, Jonathan Agnew and Mark Kemode, while Phillip Schofield has a ‘weekend wines’ column.

 

Pineapple

 

This was Airbnb’s glossy move into the world of publishing.

The coffee table production, which came in at a hefty 128 ad free pages, was distributed to the app company’s host network.

It had rather vague aims of being a ‘crossroad of travel and anthropology; a document of community, belonging and shared space’, but nonetheless was well received and covered a wide range of topics, including art, food, culture and style.

But here’s the cautionary tale; despite plans for Pineapple to be published quarterly, there was only ever one edition before the magazine was quietly shelved.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Aimee Hudson
2nd October 2017 - 8 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.