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Why Your Legal Firm's Website Needs Content an 11th-Grader Can Understand

Want to create accessible content for your website? Write for an 11th grader.

The law industry can get very technical with laws and other jargon being a necessary part of understanding what’s going on in proceedings. This becomes a problem when your target audience consists of everyday people who don’t understand your industry’s language. Then it becomes your job to take these complex ideas and present them to your target audience. 

When you write for the wrong grade level, you’re practically writing content that’s going over your audiences’ heads. And that’s why, at the very least, you should be writing for an 11th-grade reading level. 

Writing Online Content for Adults

The National Center for Education Statistics found that when it came to adults’ reading levels for prose:

  • 14% of adults were at a below-basic level and could only understand simple and concrete ideas
  • 29% were at a basic level and could understand simple, everyday ideas
  • 44% were on an intermediate level and could understand challenging ideas
  • 13% could understand complex and challenging ideas. 

This meant that most adults were at the basic and intermediate level. This suggests the following about the average reader:

  • Preferred short text with everyday wording
  • Tended to skim complex documents to find the information they needed
  • Liked easily identifiable information in simplified documents, like charts or graphics

So if you want to capture the attention of a larger audience, making content accessible is necessary. While people can read your website’s content, some ideas can be confusing and fragmented. And if your content fails to provide users with the information they need, they’re likely to find other resources – like your competitors – who can help them understand their legal situation. 

Why Your Content’s Reading Level Matters

A good way to measure your content’s readability is through the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level. This sets a standard on how readable your content is and what level of education is necessary to understand it. 

Based on data, most adults fall into the average range of 6th to 12th-grade reading levels. In content marketing, it’s recommended that content reaches an 8th-grade reading level. Some of the reasons to keep reading levels in mind:

  • Reach a wider audience. Ensure that around 80% of Americans within the 8th and up reading levels can understand your content. 
  • Create a balance. Dumbing down content too much can come off as insulting, while too complex content can make it difficult to comprehend. 
  • Establish your subject authority. Your website’s ability to explain complex terms using simpler words shows your extensive knowledge of your field.

Legal content can be a bit complex, so it can be difficult to balance factors like readability, quality, and informative content. At the very least, your content should be written with an 11th-grade reading level. Any more complex, and your content may be difficult to digest for a good part of your target audience. 

Writing Your Content on an 11th-Grade Level

By maintaining your content’s reading level between an 8th to 11th-grade level, you can reach a wider audience and make your services easier to understand. Some of the ways to minimize the complexity of your content include

  • Average of 21 words or less per sentence. Break down ideas so that a sentence isn’t stuffed with multiple or complex ideas. For more technical topics, try to reduce the word count per sentence to help with attention span and comprehension. 
  • Less than 155 syllables for every 100 words. Avoid using long words when short words can do the job. Even if you’ve minimized the number of words per sentence, too many syllables can still be overwhelming. For instance, don’t use “utilize” when “use” has the same meaning. 
  • Use an active voice. In an active voice, it’s clear that the subject of the sentence is performing the action. Saying “You will need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.” is a lot easier to comprehend than “A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will have to be filed by you.” because the idea’s flow is more straightforward.
  • Be straight to the point. For complex topics like law, save the puns and wordplay aside, as it can cause more confusion. Avoid using jargon without explaining it first, or if there’s a much more simplified way of explaining things. 
  • Avoid unnecessary fluff. Unnecessary content and highfalutin words are going to confuse your readers. Use simpler and fewer words to explain complex ideas. Consider presenting more complex data through bullet points or graphics if it can help users understand complex ideas better. This also helps you avoid clunky paragraphs that can be visually overwhelming. 
  • Use headings and subheadings. Most users will be skimming your content and only read the 20% that they need to know. Providing subheadings can help them skim your content faster and take in the information they need. 

Your content can be informative and comprehensive without being overwhelming. If your content is easy to digest and written for the everyday user, you’re more likely to provide users with what they need to take the next step toward getting in touch with your services. 

Legal Content Made Simple for Your Target Audience

When it comes to creating quality website content, there needs to be a balance between informative content, accuracy, and accessibility. Ensuring your content meets at least an 11th-grade reading level makes you more likely to reach out to the right audience and help them understand your services. With compelling and easy-to-digest content, you’re giving your website’s visitors more reason to take the next step and reach out to your firm. 

Get a team that turns complex ideas into content that’s made for your target audience, with writers that understand the ins and outs of legal content and how to provide your users with informative content while also compelling them to learn more about your services. Bring your business closer to the right audiences with comprehensive content that’s built for your niche with a strong content team.

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