Readable = Understandable. Don’t let your copywriting get too clever.

A little while ago I delved into making your copywriting more exciting.

Today, I want to step sideways and look at making your copywriting more readable. After all, the easier your message is to read, the easier it is understood and actioned!

Copywriting 101 says: Pitch your marketing message at the right level, matching the education and vocabulary of your audience.

Now unless your target market has specific language needs (like being under 5, or super clever university boffins) your marketing copywriting should be aimed at a high school education level – Year 9 or 10.

How can you tell?

Hemingway App professes to make your writing bold and clear by highlighting lengthy, complex sentences and common errors.

Tools like this online tool for text readability are also really useful. You simply plug in some text and get a grade rating. You’ll see there are a few different formulas and it’s quite interesting to see the results.

Remember: the higher the grade needed to read your copywriting, the harder it is for a wider audience to understand. And lowering the grade doesn’t mean talking down to your audience. Just taking the hot air out of your copywriting.


Exchange complicated language for more straight-forward language and reduce the average sentence length. The result is copy that almost anyone can understand.

The longer the sentences you write and the longer the words you use, the harder your copywriting is to understand.

Here’s a great guide on readability vs sentence length:

Very easy             8 words or less
Easy                      9 – 11 words
Fairly easy          12 – 14  words
Standard             15 – 17  words
Fairly difficult    18 – 21  words
Difficult               22 – 25  words
Very difficult      26 – 30  words

Remember: The longer the sentences you write and the longer the words you use, the harder your copywriting is to understand.


This post scores 9.2 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level although it did try and tell me a few of my words had too many syllables. This is where you have to use your own judgement as well. I don’t think vocabulary is too much for you… is it?

13 Responses

  1. How I love to hear others spreading the same message: it’s all about your readers.

    Understanding who will read your work is *the* place to start. It certainly makes things easier for us editors.

  2. Oh my goodness.great minds think alike. I was just walking home from daycare drop-off and wondering..what should I blog about today and, suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, I though – Fliesch-Kincaid score!  Did you know Word has an option for it too? 

    The more people promote simplicity in the written word, the happier I am. Thanks!

    1. My pleasure Nicole! I don’t let the metrics rule me too much but it’s good to have the tools that can help push us in the right direction. If you have any others please share! 🙂

  3. Result – Short Clauses. Method – Drop the crappy, overused and somewhat stale adjectives! (see what I did there?)

  4. Years ago, one of my first ever clients kept sending my copy back with the comment: “Dumb it down more!” At first I felt slightly offended thinking he didn’t appreciate my skills. At the end of the job I compared the initial copy I wrote with the end result and totally got what he meant. Fancy schmancy isn’t clever … it’s show off-y! (How’s THAT for dumbing it down! lol) Great post, Belinda. Everyone needs a reminder now and then :).

  5. This post was very easy to read. Perhaps I need to go back to Year 9 or 10…hmm, would life be so easy if it were that simple.
    Thanks for sharing this tool Belinda. It is very useful.

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