Why consistency makes your content more readable

We’re taught at school that part of writing good, engaging and readable content is to use variation. We’re told we should write sentences of different lengths. We’re urged to use a range of vocabulary, rather than repeating the same word over and over. Another common tip is to vary the structure of sentences and to use different openings.

But consistency also plays a role in making your content easy to read. You want your audience to be able to focus on the meaning, not force them to figure out how the next sentence works or whether the idea or item you’re referring to in this sentence is the same as the one you referred to in a previous paragraph.

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Compare the experience of reading these two lists.

Some examples of variation:

  • Write sentences of different lengths.
  • Vary the structure of your sentences.
  • Use a range of vocabulary. Don’t repeat the same word over and over. 

Some examples of variation:

  • Write sentences of different lengths.
  • Varying the structure of your sentences and using different openings.
  • You should use a range of vocabulary, rather than repeating the same word over and over.

Which did you find easier and faster to read? In the first list, each item in the list uses the same sentence structure, making it quick and easy for the reader to make sense of each point. In the second list, the reader needs to figure out what’s going on with the grammar first before they can grasp the meaning. 

Or, for example, if you’re running a parenting blog and talking about getting kids to do chores with a chore chart, you want to refer to it in a consistent way. Readers will take longer to figure out you’re talking about the same thing if you call it a chore chart in your opening paragraph, but talk about creating a task table in the second paragraph, and then discuss using stickers on your daily to-do list in the third.

Using consistency to create readable content is one of the steps I cover in my Ultimate Editing and Proofreading Checklist. Click on the banner below to find out more about how the checklist will help you turn your rough drafts into polished text that’s ready to share.

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