Now, continue to read to see why. 🙂
What is Yoast?
Yoast is a WordPress plugin which helps out with SEO.
What can it do?
Quite a lot. But most importantly for our purposes (as technical writers), it can analyze the text of the blog post and provide suggestions to improve the writing.
Technical writing is straightforward. Why should I try to improve it?
This is what I thought too, before I tried the plugin. 🙂
Here are some factors to consider when you write technical content:
- Does it have good structure?
- Does the writing flow well?
- Are there parts which are particularly hard to read?
How Yoast helps with technical writing
Here are some ways it helps:
It will tell you if the copy is easy to read
The Flesch reading ease test, which Yoast uses to analyze readability, does seem to be somewhat scientific. But even if it wasn’t, why not get some kind of feedback on your article’s readability before you publish it? 😉
It can analyze the length of sentences
Even for non-technical writing, long sentences are hard to read. But it can be particularly challenging when you have very long sentences in technical writing.
It will help you decide on subhead placement
Yoast complains when your paragraphs are too long!
When you read an article, subheadings are very useful while skimming. Just put yourself in the shoes of the reader. As a reader, would you rather read an article with a lot of headings and subheadings, or one without?
I have also noticed another thing. You cannot break up technical writing into headings and subheadings naturally. You will be forced to add some artificial headings. (In fact, you can see that in many articles on this blog too). But here’s the thing: adding those sometimes artificial subheadings forces you to think quite hard about the overall structure. Your article improves not because you use plenty of subheads (although it does seem to help), but because you are forced to organize the flow to accommodate the possibility.
The result? Your article becomes that much easier to read. Here is an example webhook tutorial with a ton of subheadings.
And here’s proof: 🙂
It will help you avoid passive voice
This is actually a big one, but for some reason it is hard to explain.
Try this test.
Write a paragraph explaining some concept related to your technical topic. Now check out the Yoast recommendations, and rewrite it without the passive voice. See how it reads. Usually, there is a huge difference and the paragraph becomes much more readable!
It gives you a simple, intuitive interface to make all these changes
This is quite important IMO. Even if these are all very useful features, it is important that Yoast doesn’t come in the way of your writing. I am happy to report that it doesn’t.
Here is what the Yoast scorecard looks like for this article:
(Note: I took the screenshot in the middle of the writing, to explain the UI. The final scorecard will likely be different).
- All readability features are inside a single tab, and nothing else is inside the readability tab
- The simple green/orange/red bullet system to get a quick overview is fantastic
- You can click on the “eye” icon to have Yoast highlight the sentences to verify the claims it makes. That is, it is tucked away safely until you want to see it. And if you click anywhere inside the editor, the highlights go away.
And its free
While Yoast is a commercial plugin, the readability features are available in the free version of the plugin. Thank you, Yoast!