Simple Writing Pays Off (Literally)
October 28, 2022
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
I stole this headline from a Harvard Business Review article. The literal in this case is, well, literal.
[Sidebar: Are we all going to stand idly by while “literal”, literally becomes synonymous with figurative? My British friends blame Americans and vice versa. I say a pox on both our houses, it’s happening, let’s put out the fire and figure out who started it later]
The article highlights research showing less readable, corporate annual reports correlate with a 2.5% drop in market value.
They use a readability measure called the Fog Index based on handbook standards though it shares some (not all) of the recommendations we make using our Copy Optimizer “Readability” measure that helps copy feel more like a personal letter. Both the Fog Index and our Readability score…
- eschew adverbs and adjectives that make the copy feel clumsy and tell vs. show, respectively
- rewards shorter words. This ain’t a thesaurus competition and nobody cares about your proper nouns
- shorter sentences – the period can never come soon enough.
The explanation behind all this is “processing fluency”, a term that could use it’s own readability editing.
More simply, all the nouns, long words, adjectives and prepositions are like speed bumps to reading. On this road, there is always an alternative path called, “not reading.”