Writing to a “General” U.S. Audience
As a follow-up to my last post, which addressed how to determine the level at which you are writing, I thought I’d give a few tips on how to write at the goal (8th Grade) reading level. Most of these points are ones you already know. So, you might consider this some form of refresher. However, I have tried to add some context and examples to each point.
Here are some points to help keep your texts at an 8th grade reading level:
- Go for short and simple sentences – While longer sentences can—and generally do—offer more detail than do those with a fewer word count than the longer sentences and phrases, by keeping your sentences (and for that matter paragraphs, as well) brief, concise, and basic, albeit still informative and useful to the reader, you will enhance the effectiveness and readability of your text, thus benefiting the reader.
- Use shorter words – As Mark Twain said, “Never use a large word when a diminutive one will suffice.”
- Avoid jargon – The linguistic construction process furnishes a provisional lens for the analysis of the discourse of the public sphere’s comprehension. Let’s leverage this best practice to add value and impact our bottom line.
- Use language your audience will understand – Not disparate to the illustration that heralds this one (Avoid Jargon), this instance necessitates that you use verbal communication that your spectators will comprehend, lest both the addressees and the communication go astray.
- Write in active voice, not passive – Yes, this is known by many to be my main cause in the type of writing we do. This sort of writing should not be done by you.
- Avoid unnecessary and excessive modifiers – To a certain extent, there is really little need to use very many modifiers. Pretty few things are really that very cool. If a concept or object is “excellent,” saying that it is “really excellent” doesn’t add any substance; the word “really” basically only fills space.
- Choose positive rather than negative statements – Don’t tell readers what not to do; instead, rephrase to tell them what they should do.
- Use first and second person and try to avoid third – When many people write, they use the third-person narrative. For the type of writing we do (largely informative and instructional), you should use second-person perspective.
Keep these eight points in mind while you are writing and they’ll become natural and an invisible part of your writing process.