Writing Tips: 5 Techniques to Boost Your Readers’ Comprehension

Barbara McNichol

Whether it’s an email, a report, or a chapter in a book, are you sometimes challenged to make your writing easier to follow?

What are ways to create a smooth flow that guides your readers?

My friend and colleague Barbara McNichol, a nonfiction writing and editing expert, offers suggestions. Consider her tips to improve your writing:

  1. Use subheads: When you use subheads throughout your piece, readers can skim your content and quickly discern what’s to follow. Even more, subheads indicate a change of subject and allow readers to find it quickly. Your guide: new subject, new subhead.
  2. Convey one idea per paragraph: If you pack a paragraph with more than one idea, it creates difficulty following the meaning. In an email about a talk, for example, you’d use three separate paragraphs: one explaining the subject of the talk, one explaining who the presenter is, and the third showing the date, time, and place of the event. You can also add subheads to distinguish each paragraph.
  3. Use bullets points and numbered lists: When you list similar things (such as names, steps, benefits, requirements), you help readers recognize similar content quickly. With lists, you can leave out transitional words that paragraphs command. It helps the understanding when you use the same part of speech (e.g., a verb or a noun) at the beginning of each point. Note: In a list, when the order of the points matters, use numbers; otherwise, use bullets.
  4. Vary sentence length: Although short, concise sentences are easy to read, a string short sentences can feel disjointed. Add interest by varying the length of your sentences. My rule of thumb is keeping sentences shorter than 21 words so readers can follow the meaning more easily.
  5. Vary sentence structure: Building your sentences in the order of subject-verb-object is simple and clear. But if all your sentences are constructed that way, it might come across as monotonous. Along with varying sentence length, break out of the mold of standard sentence structure.

Practice these simple ways to make your writing easy to follow and enjoy better responses from your readers.

(The post Writing Tips: 5 Techniques to Boost Your Readers’ Comprehension appeared first on Barbara McNichol Editorial Services.)

As an expert editor, Barbara McNichol proudly helps authors change the world with their well-crafted words. She specializes in editing articles, websites, and nonfiction books in the areas of business, self-help, how-to, memoir, relationships, spirituality, and more. Her Word Trippers Tips provide an excellent resource to improve your writing. Visit her website at www.BarbaraMcNichol.com or email her at editor@barbaramcnichol.com

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)