Keep it Simple

Keep it Simple image

Recent studies have shown that the average reading level for the general population of the United States ranges somewhere between a fourth and a sixth grade reading level.

More common is the use of the term “functionally literate”’. Around 16 per cent, or 5.2 million adults in England, can be described as “functionally illiterate”. They would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.

The idea of a “reading age” in years can be misleading, particularly when related to adult literacy levels. Reading age does not necessarily correspond to thinking or comprehension age so in talking about the difficulty of text, it is more useful to describe it in terms of readability levels rather than reading age.

Research on adult literacy levels was published by the Department for Business, Industry and Skills in December 2011. Find out more

Why This Matters and How this Affects you

It matters for a lot of reasons, but this is neither the time nor the place for a soap box rant regarding the quality of education that students are receiving today. This matters because the majority of content presented on the Internet comes in one of three forms: lolcat (funny cat pictures), graphic representations, or text. That’s right; most of the information on the internet involves reading. How then can we expect the material that we find relevant, the topics that we find interesting, or the manner in which we convey information to be able to maintain interest, much less be comprehended by the new target markets and audiences that are coming into their best years of buying power? There’s only one thing to do….

How to Deal with It

You’ve got to Keep it simple. Don’t go for the thesaurus, don’t try to make your sentences sound more intelligent, and, much as I hate to say it – try to stay away from those compound sentences. Make your content as easy to understand as possible. Make it so that a sleep-deprived and un-caffeinated version of you would have no issue understanding what you are attempting to convey.

It’s frustrating, it’s obnoxious, but unless you’re catering to a very specific crowd, like those who subscribe to Shakespeare Quarterly or only those who have received their Master’s degrees (and yes, this is an over exaggeration, but you get the idea), keep it basic. Remember, everything else aside, your goal is to market and sell your product; to do that effectively the average consumer must be able to understand what you are selling.


KelvinTechnical Director – OneDigitalMediaUK