How simple and clear is your writing?

Does it make a difference?

Steve Sjuggerud’s writes an investment letter called, “The True Wealth.” He shared in an article for AWAI that one of the biggest reasons he has such a high subscription and renewal rate for his letter (over 70,000 subscribers) is because of its ease in reading.

He explains in the article, How to Improve the Clarity of Your Writing by Michael Masterson, that he found there was “a direct relationship between simplicity and success.” In an informal test he rated a large number of Agora’s writers on a grading scale recommended by Michael. What he discovered surprised him. “There was a direct relationship between simplicity and success. The writers who had the lowest Flesch-Kincaid scores had the highest renewal rates.”

If simple writing makes a dramatic difference in investment letters which are read by a higher-than-average educated reader, what does it say about your target reader? Unless you are writing for a medical or scientific journal, keep your writing simple.

One way to test your writing is to rate it with the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Score. This is a measurement of readability based on students in the United States by grade level. A ninth-grade student is given a value of 9.0 and a first-grade student a value of 1.0.

A good readability score is between 7 and 8 for a general audience. Newspapers commonly aim for a rate below 8 dipping as low as 6. Even if your readers are highly educated, they will still appreciate writing that is simple and to the point. Complicated sentences with big words and lots of juicy superlative adjectives are not helpful to anyone.

Here are five quick and easy tips to lower your readability score.

1. Write about one idea at a time.
2. Keep your sentences short. The fewer words between periods the lower your score. While a few long sentences are not bad and add variety, aim for less rather than more.
3. Five sentences per paragraph is a good amount. Some will be shorter, a few longer but break up text often for greater ease of reading. Some paragraphs can be as short as one or two sentences.
4. Use words with as few syllables as possible. For instance use the word big instead of enormous.
5. Include dialogue in your writing when possible. Natural conversation tends to be short and direct. It also adds interest to an article.

Writing simply takes practice. Study popular writing and copy a page or two to train your brain to ease up on the technical, intellectual side.

Final note. If you write with Microsoft Word, you can use the Spelling and Grammar Review to check your Flesh-Kincaid score. To make sure that option is selected go to File > Options > Proofing, and and select Show Readability Statistics. You can also go to and paste in your text for instant rating.

This article rated at 6.5.

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