So, in a virtual world obsessed with communications, it makes sense for companies to get the fundamentals right. As plain language became the federal standard for communication and was heavily relied upon in crisis communications during the pandemic, it reinforces its simple yet powerful effect.
Plain language is written at an 8th-grade readability level. But what is grade level readability and why is it pertinent to modern marketing and sales? In 1975, the grade-level readability test was commissioned by the US Navy. It was used by the Army to make their instruction manuals more easily readable. A practice that led to cementing it as a United States Military Standard.
Grade-level readability took off as a concept and soon Pennsylvania became the first state to require car insurance policies to be written at a 9th-grade level or lower.
As a vital readability metric, grade level represents the number of years of education you needed to easily understand a piece of written content. The average American reads at an 8th-grade level equivalent to plain language requirements. The New Yorker is written at an 11th-grade level while Harry Potter is written at a 5th-grade level indicating the difference in the complexity of the content.
As far as the Flesch Kincaid reading level scale is concerned, the higher the readability scores, the easier it is to read. Therefore, for the company’s message to be most effective for a wide audience, it needs to be targeted at the appropriate reading level.
This objective metric used to quantify content touches upon the theory of cognitive load. Cognitive load states that people have a limited cognitive capacity for processing content before they tire mentally. Therefore, even the most sophisticated marketing message may be lost if it is too complex or long to read.
Research has found that the more educated the person is and the more specialized their knowledge base is correlated to a greater preference for plain English.
Content Marketing Implications
So, in a world that is confused by complex content, it pays to know your audience. For a company, marketers should consider the importance of a clear message written at a low-grade level. That is communication that is aware of the cognitive load and constraints of an audience. Having a clear message is the foundation upon which marketers can build a visceral connection with an audience.
Smart companies steer clear of jargon and high brow creative messages that land flat for most readers. The best companies connect with the reader and build trust. Using a readability tool is a smart way to leverage the power of technology to quantify and analyze content before it is communicated to an audience. Flexible settings, customizable dictionaries, and instant grade-level readability scores ensure that the content makes the grade consistently on every page.