Doctor Digital's Check Up - Average reading age

Readability is about making content clear and easy to understand. In relation to a website, focusing on readability increases the chance that your target audience will actually read and interact with the content you publish. Adult reading capacity is lower than you may think. By the time a child is 5 or 6 years old, they’ll use 2,500 to 5,000 common words. As their skills improve by age 9 they stop reading, and start recognising the shape of the words. Adults still find these words easier to recognise and understand than words they’ve learned since and best accessibility practice for web content is to write for the reading age of a 9 year old.

On the web, people consume information differently to in a document or book. They want quick answers and will skim and scan and miss chunks of text completely. When you write for the literacy level of a 9 year old you capture more people’s basic literacy and are more inclusive in your content. Given how many shortcuts are being made, it is recommended to put the most important information at the top of a web page, in the clearest and most concise way possible.

You can help your customers quickly find and understand what they need using these web content writing suggestions:

  • Less is more, be concise.
  • Break documents into separate topics.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use short lists and bullets to organize information.
  • Use more headings with less under each heading.
  • Present each topic or point separately, use descriptive section headings.
  • Keep the information on each page to no more than two levels.
  • Use as much white space as possible to make pages easy to scan.
  • Use the same words your readers would use when doing a web search for the info, posed as a question.
  • Don’t assume your readers have knowledge of the subject, each page should stand on its own.
  • Never use “click here” as a link. Link language should describe what your reader will get if they click the link.
  • Eliminate unnecessary words, use the shortest, simplest most common word you can to make your point.