The average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9 year old. The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8.
Considering the readability of your copy will benefit many people, including blind and partially sighted people.
This is an example of a possible paragraph written for the access page of a brochure:
At every performance where audio description is provided, there is also an opportunity for a touch tour of the stage and set. Touch tours give visually impaired patrons an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the set and costumes before the show to enhance their enjoyment of the production.
This sample has a reading age of 24 and, therefore, it excludes the vast majority of its intended readers.
Here is an alternate version of the copy:
There will be a touch tour before every audio described performance. This gives you the chance get to know the set and costumes. Patrons tell us this means they enjoy the show more.
It now has a reading age of 10. All we’ve done is use shorter sentences and shorter, everyday words.
On the DOWNLOADS page you can print out instructions on how to calculate the reading age of a piece of text using the FOG INDEX or a tool within Microsoft WORD.
One way of improving readability for everyone is to create scannable copy. This makes it easy for people to go quickly to the information they are interested in.
Take a look at the extracts overleaf from The Sun and The Guardian on 25 August 2008. Which one is easiest to scan and why?
What you can do …
• Use bold to take the reader to key words.
• Use meaningful subheadings (explain what’s in it for them).
• Bullet points to summarise content.
• Break up your copy into readable bite-sized chunks.
• One idea per paragraph.