While most of us are fortunate to have two eyes that properly team and a brain that efficiently processes information, according to UNESCO, 16% of the global adult population is illiterate. More specifically, 12% of male adults and 21% of female adults are illiterate.
If you’re the Chief Marketing Officer of a consumer-driven corporation, take pause before launching that targeted content marketing campaign. Are your writers considering all audiences?
Illiteracy Statistics that Influence Marketers
How would you like to grow your brand by an extra 15- 20% this year? Re-analyze those customers your content marketing strategy might be ignoring. Of the world’s 793 million illiterate adults, 36% live in India and 8% live in China. It appears that the United States doesn’t share statistics with UNESCO.
However, American schools regularly test teens and publish student, NAEP literacy data. According to the Condition of Education, 20- 26% of 12th graders scored below basic reading standards consistently from 1992- 2009. Many of those teens tested are now in their thirties. Content marketing campaigns have the potential to miss a significant number of consumers if the writing is too challenging.
For Whom Is Reading Difficult?
While illiteracy flourishes among poor and prison populations, struggles with vision, eye muscle coordination, processing, and dyslexia are blind to social and economic conditions. Passion and hard work can overcome many obstacles. In 2008, Fortune Small Business ran a fascinating story about a CEO with dyslexia. Terri Bowersock CEO of Shop Terry’s, turned a $2000 loan from her mother into “the largest U.S. resale furniture retailer, with 16 stores and $36 million in annual sales… despite …dyslexia.” After realizing success, Bowersock hired a writer to create manuals. She communicates ideas to her staff via sketchpads and color-coding. Instead of writing emails, she picks up the phone.
Mr. Wright, a successful educational lawyer, has a language processing disability. He also needs a calculator to process simple math; however, Mr. Wright has argued many cases including the landmark Supreme Court case Florence County School District Four v. Carter, which secured more rights for “learning-disabled children wanting to go to private schools at public expense. The 1993 ruling held that public schools that fail to educate these children no longer have a say in their educations.” (Editorial Observer)
Keep in mind both Ms. Bowersock, Mr. Wright, and others you may know, when creating marketing content. They have the option of choosing their preferred reading level when researching via Google. Write your content for them and it will have a better chance of being seen when they choose this filter.
Writing Vision-Friendly Content
Check your writing with this readability test tool. Target 5th to 8th grade reading levels. While my above paragraphs are written to a tenth grade reading level, the following bullets drop to a sixth grade reading level.
- Place important information at the top of your emails or web pages.
- Simplify verbs.
- Shorten sentences.
- Add pictures and graphs.
- Use headings & bullets.
- Avoid technical words & jargon.
- Double space.
- Use a larger font size.
With simple consideration to struggling readers, your content provider will welcome additional customers into your brand’s family.