Our readability target is 5th to 8th grade, or 10 to 14 years old. This might feel low, but it helps just about everyone. It makes content more inclusive for neurodivergent people, more easily understood by non-native English speakers, and helps folks who might be distracted, in a rush, tired, and so on. It also makes our content easier to translate and localize.
According to the Center for Plain Language, the average American has a 7th to 8th grade reading level (12 to 14 years of age). In England, 16.4% of adults have very poor literacy skills. Here are some things that help us write content everyone can understand.
Shorter sentences and words
We try to give people important info in the fewest amount of words.
According to Nielsen Norman Group, people understand 8th-grade–level content equally well on computers and mobile devices. But they slow down when reading longer, 12th-grade–level content on mobile.
When we write short and concise content for small screens and resist the urge to add more for large screens, we create an easier experience for everyone. Learn about our mobile-first content approach
Studies show that people are more likely to skip longer words (8–9 letters long) than shorter ones that are 3–5 letters long (source: National Library of Medicine). Using shorter, everyday words (like use instead of utilize) keeps our writing conversational, inclusive, and easy to understand.
Want some tips on how to keep your writing short and sweet? Read our guidelines on writing small
When we choose familiar, conversational words over complex or jargony ones, we’re using terms most people understand and use every day. And we can still talk about complex financial topics in a way that feels clear and natural.
Besides, how many times have you heard someone say, “This is too easy to understand”?
Note: Sometimes you may need to use technical or professional jargon depending on your audience. For example, it makes sense to use accounting terminology with accountants. That will raise the reading level, and that’s OK—just be mindful that the words you’re using are clear to your audience.
Learn more about how we keep content conversational
Simple verb tenses (past, present, and future) keep things concise and make localization and translation easier. And people process simpler tenses faster than complex ones.
- to save vs. to be saving
- you import vs. you’ll be importing
- you got vs. you had been getting
See more about how to keep language simple
To score content, look at the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and the Gunning Fog Index. The Flesch Reading Ease score is also interesting—a high number (close to 100) is better than a low number. Writer, our language-checking tool, has readability scores built in.
Use readability tools to test your content, but don’t rely on them exclusively. Remember to take context into account. Focus on clear, simple, familiar language and short sentences over a readability formula.
Reading level (World Wide Web Consortium (W3C))
Content Design London readability guidelines
Reading content on mobile (Nielsen Norman Group)
Omit needless words: Sentence length perception (study, PLOS One)