Writing at B1 level: how to do it

Photo Written by André Gussekloo

Anyone producing content has undoubtedly heard of the B1 level. At this level, the greatest number of readers would be able to keep up. But what is that based on and what does that level really mean? We dived into the subject and came up with this complete guide to B1 writing. 

What is B1 level?

When you learn a foreign language, a test or exam can tell you what level you have. There are six levels in total. A1 is the level of someone who is just starting to learn Dutch and C2 is of the level Groot Dictee der Nederlandse taal.

Most inhabitants of the Netherlands understand texts at B1 level. The more you rise above B1 in language level, the more residents fall by the wayside. Why is that? Not only because there are immigrants living in the Netherlands, but also because of the different levels of education. 

You can recognize the B1 level not only by the use of words, but also by the way a text is formatted. Some of the characteristics of a B1 text are:

  • clear title;
  • Sufficient Intermediate Headings;
  • sufficient blank lines;
  • active writing style;
  • positive language;
  • no abbreviations;
  • telling examples;
  • Short and clear sentences; 
  • easy words that everyone knows.

By the way, the B1 level is not the same as Jip-and-Janneket language. These children's books by Annie M.G. Schmidt may have had short sentences, but they also contain difficult expressions and old-fashioned words. The average sentence length of 6 words is also much shorter than we are used to from B1 texts.

Why do you need to write at B1 level?

A professional copywriter should be able to handle the B1 level. In fact, for most business communications, this is the best writing style. But why then? There are several good reasons for this. If you become aware of them, you'll ask yourself why you were writing so hard in the first place.

You reach a larger target group

In absolute numbers, B1 is the language level mastered by most residents of the Netherlands. More than 40% of the population can speak at this level. If we include the inhabitants who possess a higher level, then with B1 language you reach no less than 80% of the population. If you start writing at C1 level, which many companies and institutions tend to do, then your message is only clear to 15% of the population.

Writing at B1 level: how to do it - 2manydots

You provide an enjoyable user experience

Language level B1 is not only for migrants or people with a lower education. Higher educated people also find it more pleasant to read at language level B1. Especially when reading from a screen, it is nice if texts are short and clear. 

You reach your goal

When you write a business text, you have a purpose. You want to inform someone, dispel concerns, convince someone or incite them to action. And because every second counts on the Internet, you want to achieve that goal as quickly as possible. You do that with clear language. 

B1 writing: frequently asked questions

Later I will come up with concrete tips and tools for writing B1 texts. But first it's good to look at the doubts and questions that the B1 philosophy raises. Below I answer the frequently asked questions about writing at B1 level.

Do I still come across as professional?

In some professions, woolly, pompous language is the norm. Think civil servants, legal experts or upper management of a large company. But even those with higher education prefer to read sentences that are understandable. Remember that simple language does not equate to a low level of education.

Am I still credible?

In line with the question of whether B1 texts come across as professional, there is the question of whether you are still credible if you lower the level. But by writing intelligibly about a difficult subject, you show that you understand your own story. That you have mastered a topic. There is an art to explaining a difficult subject in simple words.

Isn't the topic too complicated for B1 level?

This is one of the most important issues for those who want to write B1 texts. Because how do you write accessibly about a scientific or technical subject, for example? Admittedly, that's a challenge. And this is also influenced by the target group. If it's a scientific paper, then a C1 or C2 level is often desirable. But if you want to appeal to potential customers with a web text, then you will really have to lower the threshold. 

We believe that you can write intelligibly about (almost) any subject. The more often you practice doing so, the better you will become at it.

How do you write at the B1 level?

It is a paradox that short texts require more time. When we write freely, there is a good chance that we are writing for too long. It can always be shorter and more concise. And it can almost always be simpler. In terms of structure, too, many texts could be more logical. You can take the following concrete actions to create understandable content.

Main message in front

For business texts at B1 level, you want to be direct. This means that the most important message should be at the front of the text. That way there is the greatest chance that the reader will get your message. Because online in particular, people tend to switch off quickly.

Keep it short

Godfried Bomans once said, "Writing is deleting." This has become a well-known saying, because every writer recognizes himself in this. This also applies to B1 texts, because you try to say a lot with few words. And especially in online texts, because reading on screens is more difficult than reading on paper. 

A rule of thumb is to keep an average sentence length of 10 words, with outliers to 15 words. Paragraphs should also be kept short: keep to a maximum of 100 words.

Choose understandable words

All too often we want to write too complicated to appear interesting or professional. We use difficult words, digress with subordinate sentences, sprinkle with jargon and English terms for which we have excellent translations. With the free tool Is It B1? you can check whether a term fits this language level.

C1 language levelB1 language level
As well asAnd
Giving insightMaking it clear
With respect toAbout
Because ofBecause/by

Write actively and positively

B1 texts are actively written. You call a spade a spade and don't beat around the bush. You are personal instead of distant. You do that by avoiding auxiliary verbs like will, can, and be as much as possible. You also want to banish doubtful words. And you have to turn the direct form into an active one. 

Also important is that you write positively. Because where one door closes, another one opens. And if one cannot be done, there is surely something else that can be done. Teach yourself to look at your message through positive glasses.

Passive and/or negativeActive and/or positive
You will receive our invoice within 14 days.Within two weeks you will receive our invoice.
Perhaps we can do something for you.We help you.
The property adjacent to the one which is the main residence of me and my parents.The house next to my parents' house.
On December 24, we close at 3:00 pm.On December 24, we will be open until 3:00 pm.
If you don't respond in time, I won't be able to include your wishes during the meeting.Please let me know by 1:00 pm what I can mention in the meeting.

Be your own editor

Reviewing your own writing, is that asking for trouble? Not necessarily. If you don't have anyone to proofread your text, just set it aside for a day or more. When you look at it with fresh eyes, you will suddenly see things that can be done differently. Better. Your readers will thank you.

Call for help

You can write those B1 texts yourself, but you can of course also call in help. And if there's no one in your organization who has the talent, inspiration or time for this, then outsourcing is always an option.

2manydots notes professional copywriters who get under the skin of your target group. They know how to unravel complex themes and present them in a clear way. This way your message comes through without a hitch. Just like in this blog post.

Clear writing is one of the ways 2manydots achieves better results with clients. Contact us with no obligation and find out how we can help.

André Gussekloo Content marketeer
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