Write Social Media Posts at a Sixth Grade Reading Level

Posted on June 29th 2013

Write Social Media Posts at a Sixth Grade Reading Level
Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin consistently tells me that my vocabulary is too advanced for an optimal post (which according to this infographic is at a sixth grade reading level). When Joost upgrades his program to assess writing skill, I’m sure they will trump reading level concerns. 

In any event, I thought this was an interesting infographic. HCCMIS uses their own case study around this infographic, and I think it’s always helpful to understand the thought process and action for a successful social brand, even if they may not be easily replicatable by others. By creating accessible social content around relevant inbound content, they grew their audience. What’s not to like about that?

I’m curious to hear your take on this one. 

business-social-media_51c9ce155221d

Photo See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Infographic by HCCMIS

 

leaderswest

Jim Dougherty

I write and shepherd content on Leaders West. I write about how smaller businesses can leverage social media to their advantage (and some other stuff).

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Comments

LeistCatalano
Posted on June 30th 2013 at 1:14AM

I think it's a good idea to use sixth or seventh grade English when writing for a blog.  The advice is consistent with what I was told when I was an environmental consultant writing remediation reports. It forced me to cut out a lot of scientific jargon.  I had to write for a large public audience, not just my scientist peers. 

leaderswest
Posted on July 1st 2013 at 2:13AM

Great points Laura, and I'd also add that even though most readers can read at a higher level, it does take some energy and time to comprehend articles like that, so if the goal is to have more readers reading your content then making it as accessible as possible is key. Thanks for your insight!

FeldmanCreative
Posted on June 30th 2013 at 4:32PM

Baloney. Write at a sixth grade level if you want to do business with sixth graders. Bugs me how often marketers talk about dumbing things down. I would suggest the opposite. 

There is a lot of good stuff in this infographic, but it's all over the place and features some reckless stuff too...

One word of mouth conversation is worth 200 TV ads? C'mon. How is "worth" defined?

BTW, what is "corporate twitter page rank?"

Twitter followers is a very strange way to measure the reach of a blog, no?

 

leaderswest
Posted on July 1st 2013 at 2:09AM

Thanks Barry, 

I appreciate your opinion, but can cite myriad examples where your suggestion would be misleading. The Flesch-Kincaid scale weighs heavily on syllables to determine grade-level equivalent, How many multi-syllabic words do you hear in advertising copy or in popular music?

Or take music for instance: This is the refrain from one of my favorite Ani DiFranco songs: 

"first you go under and then coming up gives you bends and when you break the surface and all you see is your friends."

And here's the refrain from the #1 song in country this week, "Blurred Lines;"

"and that's why I'm gon' take a good girl, I know you want it, I know you want it, I know you want it, You're a good girl"

Qualitatively the difference is vast, as is the success of each song. They're inversely proportional.

I think you're entiled to advocate for smarter writing, but you would be incorrect if you asserted that PhD level writing is suitable for the mass market. I'm not sure that I can think of any examples where that is true and replicatable.

As for your other points, the authors of this infographic had a point of view and shared it. I think you take what you want out of these things and leave what you want. All statistics in Internet-related studies and their resulting infographics are inherently incorrect, and it's incumbent to the reader to determine what's notable and what's not. You seem to have a strong opinion about what's not notable and what's not. 

This infographic was good about citing sources, so if you want to understand about any of the statistics that they cite feel welcome to research those.

Thanks for your comment! 

Jay_Perkins
Posted on July 1st 2013 at 9:16AM

Hi Jim

I dont think Barry was sugesting that PhD level writing was suitable for the 'mass market', but rather you should write at the level your target audience read at.

I agree with you that if you are looking to get the most number of readers to a blog post then use of simpler language is probably best. If your goal is to influence the mind and actions of a particular group however, you should write more closely to the language most used by that particular group?

J

Sperez
Posted on July 4th 2013 at 8:54PM

Great points, everyone. Jim, I think your point about reading level is correct- it's not that readers wouldn't be able to comprehend your points but that in truth, higher-level writing takes more time to process. Why not increase your blog's universal appeal by being certain all of your readers can access the information available. Also, I find it good exercise mentally to really think about the meaning of what I am saying (writing)- sure there are many words that mean roughly the same thing, but in blogging the simplest sentence is the clearest. I'm still working on that however! 

Anyone who is looking for more blogging tips should check out my colleague Krista's latest post How to Boost your Blog by Using Real Personalities that Connect with your Customers