Can a 7th-grader understand your press release?

Though it’s natural to want to write to impress, clarity is more important than anything else.

When writing a press release, one of the most important things is to make sure your message is delivered clearly.

That’s why you need to make sure you avoid using jargon and buzzwords in your press releases. The average person won’t understand what you’re saying, and that will kill your press release. This is even more important in this day and age, when press releases are often published online and distributed directly to your customers instead of only journalists.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to make sure my press release will be understood is to ask myself this simple question, “Can a seventh-grader understand this?” Studies show that the average person reads at anywhere from a sixth-grade level to an eighth-grade level. So, if your press release reads like something out of an elite academic publication, the average person probably won’t understand it.

Simply put, simplify your writing. This can be hard, but it’s the best way to make sure you’re communicating effectively with your audience. Here are a few things you can do to make your press releases easier to read:

Avoid buzzwords. Your press release shouldn’t contain B.S. phrases like “creating ubiquitous mindshare” or “leveraging innovative metrics for cross-platform initiatives.” Nobody wants to sift through that kind of tedious writing. Stay away from industry jargon, too. Your readers might not know these terms. Keep it simple.

Find smaller words. The shorter the word, the easier it probably is to understand. Your press release isn’t the time for you to show off your college vocabulary. Large, complex words make your press release more difficult to read, and they end up causing your message to get lost.

Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Try to keep your sentences tight and each paragraph to just a few sentences. When people see huge blocks of text, their eyes tend to glaze over and they stop reading effectively. This is even more important online as Internet users tend to scan rather than read text word for word.

Use tools to grade your writing’s readability. The Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Level is a tools used to measure the readability of your writing. When you run your press release through this tool, it will instantly tell you what grade level it was written at. This blog post, for example, is written at an 11th-grade level, and because we aren’t just targeting the average person, that’s great. I’m not saying that every press release you write needs to be at a seventh-grade level, but if you’re getting a score of 17 (the reading level of someone who has completed high school plus five years of college) you might want to make some adjustments.

Do you think your press releases are easy to read and understand?

Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases. A version of this article originally appeared on the PR Fuel blog.

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