The Boston Globe recently revealed something fascinating.
They reviewed 19 presidential candidates speeches using Flesch-Kincaid analysis — a readability test that provides a grade-level ranking based on word choice and sentence structure. The more intricate the words and sentences, the higher the grade-level ranking.
The results are interesting: Candidate speeches are less complex than in the past, and those who are using simple words and sentences are generally performing better than candidates who aren’t.
Here’s an example. According to the analysis, Hillary Clinton’s speeches weigh in at an eighth-grade level, while Bernie Sanders’ speeches register at a 10th-grade level. Ben Carson comes in at roughly a sixth-grade level while Donald Trump’s speeches are at a fourth-grade level.
It’s a notable finding — one that lawyers may want to consider as they write their blog content.
Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser spoke with Paul J.J. Payack, the president of Global Language Monitor, which examines trends and language. Payack said:
“It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking to a Harvard intellectual or a Midwestern farmer or a motorcycle gang member. Good communication is good communication […] All those great speeches are nice and direct. They use words people understand. They give a big message, but they’re not grandiose.”
Viser also spoke to political consultant Chris Lehane. Lehane suggested reaching voters is about getting on their wavelength:
“Once you start speaking like someone from Washington D.C., for a voter it’s like you turn on AM when you mean to turn on FM. It’s just a different rhythm than what you’re looking for.”
Viser writes that political consultants struggle to get politicians talking like “everyday Americans.”
While lawyers may not be planning to go into politics, this data could explain more about basic communication preferences. Knowing about these sorts of preferences can help lawyers write better blogs.
The data is intriguing. So is this: WordPress, the most popular general purpose blogging site on the web, recently added a Flesch analysis tool to their blogs (see the differences between LawLytics vs. WordPress). The focus on language simplification may suggest that readers are more interested than before in information that’s both useful and easy to understand.
Should Attorneys Write Easy-To-Read Blogs?
The Boston Globe article may be signaling that big messages don’t have to arrive in complex packaging. In fact, people may prefer “nuggets” of information that are the intersection of quality content and quality writing.
Writing easy-to-read blogs has a number of advantages. It’s one reason that “listicles” are so popular. Titles like, “5 Things You Didn’t Know About…” can put readers at ease. It’s the sense of commitment: People know it won’t take them long to read the post. They can get through it quickly, gain something useful, and move ahead.
Writing simple blogs and listicles may not give readers deeply detailed information as a book would, but it’s a good place to begin. No matter how informative the writing is, people may become frustrated if they have to do mental gymnastics to get to the takeaway points.
After all, the internet is full of “information.” We’ve been exposed to the internet long enough that even the way people scan search results has changed. People need a way distill and take in the information they actually want. And easy reads can help us sort the deluge of information we get every day.
That’s why high-quality content that’s simply written can be a good choice for law firms. People click on links and often scan what’s there before they start reading. If the writing looks complex, readers may skip it in favor of another site that provides similar information in an easier format. It may be that once readers scan a blog post “blueprint” and find one they like, they’ll read the post and pick up the important takeaways. If the topic interests them, they may want more in-depth information later.
The law can be a complex topic, but that doesn’t mean lawyers must write about it in a complicated way. Avoiding legal jargon — or clearly explaining a term when it must be used — can help readers without a legal education feel your content is accessible and easy to understand. Lawyers may also want to implement bullet points and short paragraphs. Long sentences and paragraphs can feel overwhelming to readers.
A first glance at a post can help your audience quickly decide if you’ve got valuable content that they’ll want to read. That could be a good reason to write more simply.
If readers come to expect easy-to-read but informative content from your law firm’s blog, they may want to engage with your content more often. And that can help boost your law firm’s traffic, rankings and business.