Blog like you’re writing for a 14-year old girl

What do newspapers and online reports have in common? They’re both written at an eighth-grade level or lower. Experts say that some papers are even written at a fifth-grade level! Not sure what it’s like in other countries but that’s the case for the US.

Anyway, one way to measure the level of writing complexity is paragraph size (along with sentence structure and vocabulary). For this article, let’s dive a little deeper on that theory.

First, let’s take a look at The Wall Street Journal online. I grabbed the first article under the Markets page and here’s what I found:

Stocks Slide as Risk Loses Favor

  1. Average paragraph: 33 words
  2. Shortest paragraph: 12 words
  3. Longest paragraph: 69 words

Now let’s examine the first article I found under CosmoGirl’s Daily Kiss Blog:

Sexy Halloween Costumes – Love it or Leave it?

  1. Average paragraph: 76 words
  2. Shortest paragraph: 26 words
  3. Longest paragraph: 122 words

Who do you think the average WSJ reader is? And FYI, CosmoGirl’s target audience is teenage girls. The latter has more massive paragraphs! Now I don’t want to break down sentence structures or vocabulary between the two, but the key is — you have to make articles easy to read.

Sure, it’s not a significant sampling, but you get the idea. People have short attention spans. They want quick points, and they want them broken up into small chunks.

I don’t know about you but other than my niece, I don’t know too many 14-year olds. Fortunately, I am great friends with a well-known sports writer in the NYC area, and he has blessed my following sentiments for writing good articles.
Shock value works – Use a title that captures the attention of a curious mind.

What goes around, comes around – Open with a to-the-point paragraph or statement and conclude with the same point.

Holy wall of text! – Keep short paragraphs of 25-100 words.

Jargon rules – Use buzzwords that are relevant to your audience (WSJ article used ‘risk aversion’ and ‘volatility’ while CG article used ‘flaunt’ and ‘xoxo’).

No more books! – Make sure readers do not need dictionaries or thesauruses.

Kid-tested, kid approved – If you can’t pass it out to an elementary school to read, your article is written for a level too high for the masses.

Writing for a 14-year old doesn’t mean write like a 14-year old. We don’t have editors, so we’re going to have typos and grammatically incorrect sentences. Keeping those to a minimum still holds true. We also still have to be good storytellers and be able to get our ideas across. We have to do it in a way that appeals to the general public.

Remember, a pubescent-minded blogger is a good blogger.

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