How to enhance readability


I have written this article on how to enhance readability as a guide to a very common problem. As well as writing my own books and working as an English teacher, I edit, beta read and proofread books, often for newer authors. Many of them struggle with readability issues.

Image by olga volkovitskaia from Pixabay

Consider your sentence length

Have you heard the saying that we use only around 10% of the brain? It is more accurate to say that we use the whole brain, but only around 10% at any one moment. The longer and more complex a sentence is, the more readers need to use parts of the brain that process language. These are not the same as the parts of the brain that deal with emotions. Imagination takes place in a different region of the brain to both. When you want readers to imagine, or to connect emotionally, using simpler language can really help to do that.

This means action sequences and emotionally impactful dialogue scenes need lots of short simple sentences. Having one character use longer sentences that another can also be a great way to show how differently they are dealing with a particular situation. Longer sentences can make a character seem more in control of themselves and what’s going on.

Use simpler language

Use clear and straightforward language in your storytelling. Avoid using fancy words or complicated sentences that might confuse your readers. Simple language helps keep your story flowing smoothly. If a reader encounters too many words they don’t know the meaning of, it can also break immersion.

Use more dialogue

Dialogue helps bring your characters to life and adds variety to your writing. It breaks up long passages of description and keeps readers interested in what your characters have to say.

More dialogue often equates to improved readability, and when done well, can really help make the story feel like it is moving forward.

Use paragraphing

Break up long paragraphs into smaller chunks. This makes your novel look less intimidating and easier to digest. Consider adding dialogue or action scenes to break up heavy sections of text.

Don’t mix sentence purposes

This is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give when coaching writers in how to enhance readability. The best way to explain this is to give an example:

The man, who was tall and had long black hair in a ponytail, sauntered up to her and took out his expensive pocket watch, which was gold and had an elegant gold chain.

This sentence is mixing the description of the man and the pocket watch with the actions of walking up to the woman.

The man was tall, with a long black ponytail. He sauntered up to her, taking out his gold pocket watch. It looked expensive, with an elegant gold chain to match.

This version has all the same information and even uses fewer words, but is broken up into three shorter sentences. The first and last take care of description, while the second deals with the action. As a result, it is a lot more comfortable for a reader to process, leaving more room for imagination.

Limit passive voice

Passive voice happens when the action in a sentence is done to the subject, not by the subject itself. Look for “to be” verbs and unclear subjects to spot passive voice. To fix it, use active voice with clear subjects doing the action, making your writing clearer and more engaging.

For example:

Active = Emily baked the cake.

Passive = The cake was baked by Emily.


It is important to consider how to enhance readability. Sometimes, as writers, we can get so caught up in telling our stories, that we overlook the experience of reading them. Our tools are the vocabulary choices we make, the layout decisions we have, and the grammar structures we use. I hope this article helped you to choose the right ones!

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