The Disruption Series: Readability When Remote

The role of precise wording for better understanding

This is the eleventh piece in the Lionbridge Disruption Series, a collection of commentary from life sciences experts on how the industry is changing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

What is readability?

Readability is a measure of how simple content is. It’s a combination of vocabulary and syntax that make text easier to read, understand and recall. In some instances, the word also refers to how content is presented visually: a graph or chart for conveying percentages us easier to digest than a long list of descriptive sentences with no image. Think of it like the five finger test for adults: too tough and you risk losing readers to confusion, frustration or both.

Why does readability matter?

If your audience can’t understand you, your message, no matter how important, will get lost. Ever struggled to put together a piece of furniture or troubleshoot a new tech purchase with a confusing manual? Or gotten halfway through a sentence only to realize you’ve been parsing it differently than intended? Errors, ambiguities and technical wording can all slow down reading and comprehension. The more smoothly a reader can progress through a text, the less effort the journey takes.

Importantly, a readable piece of content is also easy to translate. Removing jargon and unnecessarily flowery phrasing decreases complexity for machine translation and professional translation.

In the newly remote world we live in, messages previously delivered by in-person are now often delivered in over video chat or email. For the latter especially, clarity can save something as small as a few moments of time or as critical as protocol maintenance.

How do you measure readability?

There are several indexes, tests and scales for measuring readability, including ones like the Flesch formula. All these measurements give language analysts a sense of the reading level of a particular piece of content. There and other linguistic statistics also describe the clarity of the text—that’s the difference between a panda that eats, shoots, and leaves and one that eats shoots and leaves.

In the end, the measure of readability that matters most is whether your readers can comprehend the information you present. That’s why we work with experienced native speakers with the appropriate industry knowledge—or lack thereof—to mimic your target audience.

How can Lionbridge improve readability for your company?

Lionbridge is all about building bridges and breaking barriers. Communication is an essential tool for both. With decades of experience in both the life sciences and translation, our experts understand the balance of brevity and precision. Our teams produce quantifiable insights into your company’s readability and can automatic statistical processes to provide constant feedback. These measurements also allow you to track your improvement over time and maintain consistency (similarly to style guides). For more on our writing and content services, connect with someone on our team.

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Dan Herron
Dan Herron