Why You Should Write Like a 5th Grader

why you should write like a 5th grader

Writing is important in any career. Or any business.

Writing is how we communicate in business. It’s how we convince a customer to stay with our company. Or convince somebody to buy a product online.

Later in this article I’ll show you exactly how to check what level you’re writing at. But you might want to read this first. It turns out that writing like a 5th grader might actually be a good thing for most of us.

Traditional writing styles don’t work online

Think about how much writing you do. Now how much of it is online?

For me it’s 95%. Blog posts, emails, etc.

It’s the internet age. Things get skimmed, not read. Everyone’s multitasking and in a hurry.

But the way we were taught to write isn’t intended for online reading.

We write long boring sentences with big words. And big paragraphs. Most of us put way too many sentences in each paragraph, intimidating the reader.

Writing like this is fine if you’re creating a book or a research paper but most of us aren’t.

Why you should write like a 5th grader

You need to adapt your writing to the shorter attention spans of the online readers. Most people online have 10 tabs open on our browser and are constantly multitasking. Remember who your readers are.

Think about who’s reading what you put online, and what THEY want. What will help THEM?

Adapt your writing and you’ll be more engaging. Your message will be better received. You’ll keep people’s attention.

Here’s what you’re probably thinking: “But I’m a good writer. I’m not going to lower myself to everyone else’s level.”

James Altucher wrote an article about this topic recently, which inspired my post today. The article mentions that Hemingway wrote “The Old Man And The Sea” at a 4th grade level. Then he won a Nobel price the next year.

Most successful writers online are between 5th grade and 8th grade level. The best of the best are doing this. James wrote up a detailed case study on this so I won’t repeat it here. But check out the link above if you want more specific examples.

How to check what grade level you’re writing at

So now you know how this style of writing can help you. Let’s talk about how to check what level you’re currently writing at.

The best measure is called the F-K score. Short for Flesch-Kincaid.

It assigns a number to your writing. Each number corresponds with a school grade. A score of 8 means you’re writing at an 8th grade level. Remember, 5th-8th grade is ideal for online content.

This website is where I check my F-K score. Paste a paragraph (or more) into the text book. Then look along the right hand side of the screen and you’ll see your F-K score along with some other numbers.

F-K score Flesch–Kincaid (1)

 

Improving your writing over time

I recently went back to some of my old writing. I saw F-K scores of 12, 13, etc.

It means my content was better suited for a book than a blog post. It means that most people probably skimmed it. Or hit the “back” button.

Through practice, I’ve gotten better. You can too. One of my most recent posts got a score of 5.6. This article has an F-K score of 4.

It sounds crazy to celebrate writing below a 5th grade level, but it really is a skill. It takes practice, like anything else.

The only way to improve is to keep checking and attempting to get better.

After you’ve gotten in the habit of making each sentence easier to read, work on spacing out your content into smaller paragraphs too.

Getting started- What you can do today

Check the F-K scores on some of your previous writing. Are you surprised by the numbers? Do you think you’ll be able to lower them after reading this? Post a comment below and let me know what you think.

 

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Leave a Comment:

3 comments
Dan Kenney says September 8, 2015

I like this advice because it’s different than a lot of what I’ve read lately in terms of tips to improve my writing.

I went back and checked some old articles that I wrote on my first blog that I ever created. They were around 11 on average. My more recent stuff is the same approximately. How long does it take to improve and get down to 8 ish?

Reply
    Biron Clark says September 8, 2015

    Hey Dan,

    The good news is that you can improve almost instantly. It will take time for it to become a habit. But you could write an article tomorrow that has an F-K score of 5. Just force yourself to make it very choppy. Use sentence fragments. Use spacing. Create many many paragraphs.

    Give it a shot and let me know on your next post how it goes.

    Reply
Betty says July 15, 2017

This advice sound great for writing blogs and emails, but I’m concerned about writing cover letters. I’m wondering what the result would be should I “dumb down” my writing style if one of the qualifications of the job is a college degree!

Reply
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