Note: This is the second article in a 2-part series on how to use a simple tool hidden inside Microsoft Word – called the FK scanner – to improve the power of your copy.
In this article, I’m going to teach you five simple ways you can lower your Flesch-Kincaid (or FK) score to the elite level. This will make your writing more powerful. And it should result in a lot more sales.
I’ve already been through how to use Microsoft Word to scan your copy and obtain an FK score in the first piece in the series. I also told you why having a low FK score is essential.
It boils down to this…
If you can get your FK score lower than 8 you make sure your reader – let’s call him Tom – will be able to understand your copy on first read.
This means there’s less chance he will become distracted or confused. This makes him more likely to read your entire sales message (and buy your product).
In the first article I also showed you how the greatest sales letters of all time have FK scores below 8 – including those written by Gary Bencivenga, Mike Palmer, Joe Sugarman and many other copywriting greats.
If you can bring your FK score below 8 like the masters, you’ll have far more chance of recreating their success.
Follow these 5 simple shortcuts to lower your FK score to ‘elite level’ in minutes
You can use the five tips I’m about to share with you to improve any piece of copy you’re working on right now. If it’s a short piece – say, like an email to your list – you’ll be able to apply these tips in minutes.
However, the real power comes when you begin to use the FK tool on every piece of copy you write. If you do that – and you actively try to lower your score – you’ll drastically shortcut the time it takes to become a decent copywriter. I guarantee it.
Let’s begin with tip number one…
FK lowering tip #1
Use short paragraphs
Tom doesn’t like big paragraphs. If your text is all bunched together like it is in a novel, Tom’s eyes find it difficult to follow. He’ll often lose his place when reading because he can’t pick out the next line.
That means he’ll likely move on to something that requires less effort.
Remember: Tom is one click away from YouTube at all times. If he finds your piece hard to follow he’ll quit reading and go watch cat videos.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
To make it easy for Tom, you want to structure your copy a lot like the piece you’re reading now. There’s lots of ‘white space’. Tom’s eyes will be happy reading a piece like this because he finds it easy to scan and pick out the next sentence.
How to embrace the ‘white space’
Your FK results can tell you if your piece has enough white space to make Tom happy. Just look at the number next to ‘sentences per paragraph’, here…
If this number is below 3.5, you’re in good shape. A little higher than that can be fine if your sentences are short and punchy. But you don’t want to go above 5.
If your piece of copy has a number over above 3.5, there’s a simple rule you can use to lower it:
If any paragraph is 4 sentences or more, see if it can be broken up
There are two main ways you can do that.
- Try deleting one of the sentences entirely.This is the best way. If the meaning remains the same, you’ve just given Tom more white space to enjoy and increased the simplicity (i.e. power) of your message at the same time. Nice.
- Try rewriting the paragraph so there are less sentences.You have to be careful with this one. Simply fusing two shorter sentences into a longer sentence won’t bring your FK score down. In fact, it might raise it (we’ll get to that in second). You want to make you’re simplifying the paragraph at the same time.
You’ll find you can’t break all paragraphs into 4 sentences or less. That’s fine. This isn’t something you have to follow religiously. It’s merely a good rule of thumb.
FK Lowering Tip #2
Use short sentences
This might be the most powerful of all the FK lowering tips you’ll learn today. Tom loves short sentences. Especially when they’re between 7-12 words.
Why 7-12 words?
Because that’s the average sentence length people use when speaking. You’ve probably heard people say you should ‘write how you speak’ when writing copy. And for good reason.
For one, it shortens your sentences. But it also keeps your copy in the ‘active voice’ (we’ll get into the ‘active voice’ later). Both are desirable if you want to lower your FK score and increase the power of your writing.
You can use the FK tool to check on your sentence length, here…
You want to keep this number below 15. Again, this isn’t a concrete rule, it’s just a good guideline to keep in mind.
If your number is above 15, you need to examine your longer sentences and see if they can be broken down into shorter ones.
Here’s an example of a sentence that’s far too long:
This is an illustration of a super long sentence that is unnatural to read and much more difficult to follow because the normal sentence length when somebody is speaking is not 38 words but closer to 7-12 words.
This sentence has an FK score of 18.1…
Reckon Tom is going to stick around after you string a few sentences like this together?
How about this:
This is an example of a larger sentence broken down into smaller ones. This makes it much easier to understand. You’re now writing in a way that more closely mimics how people speak. As you know, it’s important to try and write how you speak. This keeps your copy in the active voice.
Much better. This paragraph has an ‘elite’ FK score of 4.7.
FK Lowering Tip #3
Use simple words
Tom likes short words, just as he likes short sentences and paragraphs. When you use big words he doesn’t understand, Tom isn’t impressed. He thinks you sound like a pompous douche who doesn’t understand him. He becomes distracted and wants to go back to watching cat videos.
You want to try and use the shortest word possible in every situation. This means Tom never gets the chance to become confused by your words. And he’ll have one less reason to stop reading your copy.
There’s a simple rule you can follow to make sure you’re using simple words…
If any word is 3 syllables or more, see if it can be replaced with a shorter word.
If you can find one that is shorter with the same meaning, you’ve just made your writing easier to understand.
If you can’t find a replacement word that fits, congratulations. Your writing is as streamlined as can be. Tom will love it.
FK Lowering Tip #4
Use the ‘active voice’
One of the things the FK tool measures is the percentage of passive sentences in your copy. If there are lots of them, your FK score will rise.
This is because passive sentences are more difficult to read than active ones. They’re also a lot less engaging. You want to try to avoid using them.
So what do I mean by the active voice?
It’s pretty simple.
Active voice = When the subject of the sentence does something.
Example: Tom wrote an awesome piece of copy.
Passive voice = When the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb.
Example: The awesome piece of copy was written by Tom.
The simple way to make sure your writing stays in the active voice is by writing how you speak (most people use the active voice naturally when speaking).
However, you can still check the percentage of passive sentences using the FK scanner to make sure you’re on track. Just look at this number, here…
If it’s higher than 10% you have some work to do. Simply pick out sentences in the passive voice and rewrite them into the active voice. Easy.
FK Lowering Tip #5
Talk about one idea per sentence
This is one of the best writing clarity hacks there is – so naturally, it will help your FK score plummet.
I could have put it in the ‘use short sentences’ section as a guideline. If you talk about one idea per sentence you’ll find you start writing much shorter sentences naturally. However, this hack powerful enough that it deserves its own section.
Writing one idea per sentence allows Tom’s brain to flow logically flow from one idea to the next. This makes your piece far easier to understand. And far more persuasive.
For example, here’s a sentence with four ideas in it…
I’m an expert copywriting teacher (1) who can show you how to make money online (2) without sacrificing all your free time (3) so you have heaps more time to watch Netflix (4).
Dang, that’s long.
It’s FK score is 13.1. Tom will find it hard to digest the meaning of a sentence like this. Especially if you have sentences like this back to back.
But if you put each idea in its own sentence, Tom finds the information easy to digest. Like this…
I’m an expert copywriting teacher. I can show you how to make money online without sacrificing all your free time. This will give you way more time to watch Netflix.
This has an FK score of 4.8. Tom will LOVE reading this passage.
Of course, it’s not possible to follow this rule for every sentence. (I’m sure you’ll find many sentences in this piece that have two ideas in them). But you should try and stick to it as best you can. Your writing will become far more powerful as a result.
Ok – that’s it. Lesson over.
Thanks for reading.