Write for fifth graders to drive conversions

E-commerce content is more than sales pitches and technical information. Buyers who cannot understand your communication will not convert. To get their attention, write on a fifth grade reading level.

Reading comprehension plays a crucial role in e-commerce. Buyers need to understand how a product or service works. A good example is the Harry Potter books. The story is complex, but the writing is easy to understand. Thus, it continues to appeal to both adults and younger readers.

Help shoppers

Lower-level reading creates less work for customers. It's not silly content.

Consumers who quickly understand a product are more likely to buy it.

Williams-Sonoma can be an example of what not to do. The "readability" on the company's product pages is for class 13, according to Hemingway Editor. Buyers probably read (or do not understand) the explanations – and leave the page.

Williams-Sonoma website for a Dutch oven

Readability on William-Sonoma's product pages is for class 13 according to Hemingway Editor.

Williams-Sonoma is not alone. Many online stores use fancy jargon to describe even simple products. There are better ways to convey the luxury of a brand or product. Here are some examples with the Dutch oven description above.

  • Original text: The bright sand color of the enamel interior makes it easy to monitor the food while cooking, which ensures less knitting and burning; Cherry Blossom interior is white.
  • Revised text: A bright interior makes it easy to check on the food to prevent it from sticking and burning.
  • Original text: Stabilizers in the newly developed lid prevent swinging and keep the lid in place.
  • Revised text: Stabilizers prevent the lid from swinging, so it stays tight in place.
  • Original text: Improved ergonomic steering wheel in either stainless steel or black composite, depending on your color choice, provides a secure grip and is oven proof up to 500 ° F.
  • Revised text: Improved stainless steel or black composite ergonomic steering wheel provides a secure grip and is oven proof to 500 ° F.

In addition to products

Clear writing goes beyond the product page. The website, customer service pages, landing pages and navigation should all be easy to understand.

For example, the website for The Black Tux has a goal, and it is not an immediate purchase or rental of a tuxedo. Rather, the goal is to attract visitors to click the "Get started" button. This would make them enter their email address as well as the event date and number of tuxedos needed. While visitors can instead use the top navigation, the simple explanation ("Tuxedos and suits, for rental and storage") speeds up the process and clear prompting ("Get started").

Black Tux website

The Black Tux website has clear text and instructions.


Many tools can estimate the readability of the site's content. Some are free and may be sufficient. But you will probably dig deeper, especially for the manufacturer's descriptions, which are often formal and too long.

Microsoft Word provides a simple, built-in tool. In the Microsoft 365 version, click the Tools tab Spelling & Grammar> Options> View Readability Statistics. The statistics are displayed after running the control.

Readability statistics screen in Microsoft 365 Word

Microsoft Word provides basic readability statistics at Tool > Spelling & Grammar> Options> View Readability Statistics.

The Flesch Reading Ease score is a long-standing method of measuring readability. The higher the score (out of 100), the easier it is to understand. The Flesch-Kincaid class level estimates the minimum requirement. In the screenshot above, this is 4.4, indicating that the average reader requires a level of 4.4 to understand.

It's free Hemingway Editor is a style control that focuses on readability. It points to sentences and phrases that are difficult to read and suggests alternatives. Grammarly's free version highlights critical grammar and spelling errors. The paid version provides tips on vocabulary and punctuation.

Write for people

Using automated tools, they can recommend less than ideal changes. Never accept a proposal without careful thought.

Writing for lower levels is sometimes cumbersome. However, stick to it. Buyers who understand your business and products are more likely to convert.

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