A popular quote from Albert Einstein goes thus, if you cannot explain it to a six year old, you probably do not understand it yourself. For simplicity is genius.
The truth of this quote can never be over emphasized. In fact, one of the challenges faced by readers of articles, blogs and academic papers, etc. is that they struggle to understandsome of the content available. This is why many readers skip from article to article seeking adequate and understandable information.
One of the things I love about Wikipedia is the way their articles are written. They are done in such a way that regardless of how little your knowledge is on a subject, you can still understand what the article is talking about.
I have been to Wikipedia several times, researching medical, technical, and political, concepts, terms, etc. And I can say that I have mostly left satisfied or with vital information to further assist me in my research.This should be the resultafter reading any article, blog or academic paper.
Regardless of what topic or niche you write on, it is possible to write in such a way that readers can understand. This article will be guiding you on the techniques to improve reading comprehension. Let’s go already!
Writing Techniques to Improve Reading Comprehension
Design an outline
In the construction industry, no project starts without a plan. No matter how huge or tiny the project is, a Plan must be designed and approved before the project can commence. This is because the plan is to guide the Civil Engineer and other persons involved in the construction, on how the project should look.
The same should apply to your writing. Before you start, design an outline for the paper you are about to write. List out the points you wish to discuss, arrange them in the order you wish, identify analogies you wish to employ, and then add little notes summarizing each point. This will serve as a guide throughout your writing.
The benefit of this step is that it gives you the opportunity to see how your paper will look even before you start. If it does not look okay at this stage, odds are it will not look good when you are done.
Another benefit is, it offers you the opportunity to organize your thoughts before you start writing. This will help ensure you have your best foot forward when you start writing.
Write Clearly and Concisely
Stanford University in a writing style guide Paper emphasized the necessity of writing clearly and concisely as a technique for improving reading comprehension. What does it mean to write clearly and concisely?
It is choosing your words deliberately and concisely, constructing your sentences carefully and using correct grammar. This makes it easier to pass your message clearly to your audience. Other factors that contribute to writing clearly and concisely includes the following:
- Avoid unnecessary “fancy” words; use straightforward words.
- Replace vague words with specific ones.
- Eliminate unnecessary words.
- Use positive terms / words
For further details, visit https://stanford.edu/class/ee267/WIM/writing_style_guide.pdf.
Make it Interesting
Have you noticed that most blockbusters begin with a teaser that keeps you glued to your screen until the end of the movie? The secret is, people will give you their complete attention immediately they have reasons to believe that it is worth it.
To help your readers understand whatever your message is, make your article or paper interesting. You can make your paper interesting by doing the following:
- Use stories: Use short and relevant stories whenever necessary in your write-up. They make the work interesting and entertaining for readers. However, before opting for a story be sure you check for the following:
- That the story is appropriate for your writing audience.
- That the story supports the message you are trying to pass.
- That the story is brief and interesting.
- Use Analogies: In analogies, we compare things that are very familiar with thing that are not so familiar to our audience. Ensure the following before using an analogy:
- That the analogy is familiar to your audience and will them understand your point. For instance, using the analogy of fantasy cricket to explain how fantasy football works for an Indian will be a great analogy, since they are very familiar with Fantasy Cricket sports over there.
- That the analogy is appropriate for your audience.
- Ensure that analogies are only used when necessary.
These steps will help keep your work interesting to readers and help them comprehend your work completely.
Stay on Point / Write cohesive Paragraphs
Imagine a sprinter in an Olympics 100 meters race, leaves his track and runs into that of another runner. You can guess what will happen to him. Of course, he will be penalized.
This is what some writers do when they write and they get a different type of penalty. Readers seeking quality information avoid them.
If you wish to write to improve reading comprehension, a good place to start is to stay on point in each paragraph. Assign a point to each paragraph and stick to it through out that paragraph. Do not discuss more than a point in one paragraph.
The flip side to this point is to Stay on topic throughout your article. To help you stay on point in each paragraph, and on topic through the paper, create an outline for your paper.
Write for Your Audience
If you were asked to write for a high school final year class and a college final year class on the same topic, I believe your manner of writing will not be same for both classes. That of the college final year class will contain more mature content than that of the High school class.
This analogy captures the point clearly. Whenever you write, consider who your main audience will be and write to their taste. If they are all professionals, you will have to write from a professional angle, do less explanations, etc.
Writing for your audience is a major key to improving reading comprehension among your readers.
Try To Educate Your Audience
When writing, assume that you are trying to educate your audience on the topic. This makes it easy for readers to understand the paper. This is especially necessary for a general audience.Among general audiences, some readers may have cognitive disabilities and may require more explanations than others may.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends an 8th grade reading level when writing for a general audience, and a 12th grade reading level for an educated audience.Some major news websites such asBBC are written at the 8th grade reading level. While professional publications like the Journal of the American Medical Association are written at the 11th grade reading level. For more information, visithttps://webaim.org/techniques/writing/.
Keep Your Sentences And Paragraphs Brief
Another technique to improve reading comprehension among readers is to keep your sentences and paragraphs brief. Having unnecessarily long sentences or paragraphs can be confusing to some readers, especially those with cognitive disabilities. Short sentences assists easy comprehension.
To keep your sentences short, avoid fluff words, eliminate unnecessary analogies, and write concisely.
Explain Acronyms and Abbreviations
Imagine you are on the train in a foreign country and you ask another passenger a question in English, only for them to reply in a foreign language. How would you feel?
This is similar to the feeling a reader gets when you write out acronyms / abbreviations without explaining them.
To ensure that your readers understand your point clearly, avoid abbreviations, and if you decide to use them, explain them clearly. In addition, always explain any acronym you use in your article. This will help your audience understand your work.
Avoid Negative expressions
Negative expressions simply refers to the use of negative words like not, do not, did not, etc. Why should you avoid using them?
Negative expressions require readers to interpret your meaning. On the other hand, affirmative expressions convey clear meanings that does not really require interpretation from the audience. Let’s take a look at this example:
- Negative expression:She will not appreciate the details that lack relevance.
- Positive expression: She will appreciate relevant details.
Positive expressions makes it easier for your audience to understand your article.
Although this is true, writing in the affirmative requires some amount of discipline and practice, especially if you have always written in the negative before. It will require some practice and time to break the habit (that is why you may have found some negative expressions in this article).
Proofread your work
This simply refers to going over your work with a view to identify errors and correct them. Proofreading should not be something that only happens at the end of your writing. It should be an ongoing process throughout the duration of your writing.
It should happen at the end of every paragraph, to help you identify errors and address them early on. This will help you keep each paragraph strictly on a point.
Proofreading at the end of your writing will also provide an opportunity for you to add final changes to your work.
The goal of writing is to communicate a message or idea to an audience. Therefore, it is very important for writers to do all they can to write in a manner that their audience will understand, and even enjoy.
However like most things, this will require consistent practice to master it. It is only with practice that one can truly develop their writing skills to consistently write pieces that readers understand and enjoy. So keep practicing and you will be there shortly.