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Written by Gijs de Rooij, 22 December 2021

Writing at B1 level: here’s how to do it

Anyone who produces content has undoubtedly heard of the B1 level. At this level, the largest number of readers could come along. But what is that based on and what does that level really mean? We dove into this topic and came up with this complete guide to B1 writing.

What is B1 level?

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

Most residents of the Netherlands understand texts at B1 level. The more you rise above B1 in language level, the more residents are left out. How so? Not only because of immigrants living in the Netherlands, but also because of varying 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 there are difficult expressions and old-fashioned words among them. 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 must 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. When you become aware of this, you will ask yourself why you wrote so hard in the first place.

You reach a larger audience

In absolute numbers, B1 is the language level mastered by most residents of the Netherlands. Over 40% of the population is proficient in this level. If we include the residents who possess a higher level, B1 language reaches as much as 80% of the population. If you are going to write at C1 level, which many companies and institutions tend to do, then your message will only be clear to 15% of the population.

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You provide a pleasant user experience

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

You reach your goal

When you write a business text, you have a purpose in doing so. You want to inform someone, address concerns, convince someone or spur them into action. And because every second counts on the Internet, you want to achieve that goal as quickly as possible. You do that with plain language.

B1 writing: frequently asked questions

Later I will come up with concrete tips and tools for writing B1 texts. But first it is good to consider the doubts and questions raised by the B1 philosophy. Below I answer frequently asked questions about writing at B1 level.

Do I still come across as professional?

In some professions, woolly, pompous language is the norm. Consider civil servants, legal experts or the upper management of a large corporation. But even higher educated people prefer to read sentences that are understandable. Recall 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 appear professional, there is the question of whether you are still credible if you lower the level. But just by writing understandably about a difficult subject, you show that you understand your own story. That you have mastered a theme. 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. After all, how do you write accessibly on, say, a scientific or technical topic? Admittedly: that’s a challenge. And in this, the target audience also plays a role. If a scientific paper is involved, a C1 or C2 level is often desirable. But if you want a web text to appeal to potential customers, you will really have to lower the threshold.

We believe that you can write intelligibly about (almost) any topic. The more often you practice with it, the better you become at it.

How do you write at B1 level?

It’s a paradox that short texts actually require more time. When we write freely, chances are we are too long-winded. It can always be shorter and more concise. And almost always it can be simpler. Also in terms of structure, many texts could be more logical. You can take the following concrete actions to create comprehensible content.

Main message up front

For business texts at B1 level, you want to be direct. That means the most important message should be at the front of the text. That way, the reader is most likely to catch on to your message. Because especially online, people drop out quickly.

Keep it short

Godfrey Bomans once said, “To write is to delete.” This has become a well-known saying because every writer recognizes this. The same is true for B1 texts, because here you are trying to say a lot with few words. And especially in online texts, because reading on screens is more difficult than from paper.

A rule of thumb is to maintain an average sentence length of 10 words, with outliers to 15 words. Paragraphs should also be kept short: keep 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, wander off with second sentences, sprinkle in jargon and English terms for which we have fine translations. With the free tool Is It B1? you can check if a term fits this language level.

C1 language level B1 language level
As well as And
Regarding About
Check Watching/Reviewing
Nevertheless Still
However But
Giving insight Making it clear
Kick-off Kickoff/opening
Regarding About
Optimize Improve
Pitch Presenting
Restrictions Restrictions
Strategy Approach
Because of Because/by
Again Again/again
Thus So

Write actively and positively

B1 texts are actively written. You call each animal by its name and don’t beat around the bush. You are personal rather than distant. You do this by avoiding auxiliary verbs such as shall, can and become as much as possible. Also, you want to eliminate doubt words. And the suffering form you have to turn into an active one.

Also important is that you write positively. Because where one door closes, another opens. And if is is not possible, surely there is something else that is. Teach yourself to look at your message through a positive lens.

Passive and/or negative Active 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 that is the primary residence of me and my parents. The house next to my parents’ house.
On December 24, we close at 3 p.m. We will be open until 3 p.m. on December 24.
If you don’t respond in time, I won’t be able to include your wishes during the meeting. Let me know by 1 p.m. what I can mention in the meeting.

Be your own editor

Reviewing your own texts, is that asking for trouble? Not necessarily. If you have no one to proofread your text, just put it aside for a day or more. When you look at it with fresh eyes, you suddenly see things that can be done differently. Better. Your readers will thank you.

Call for help

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

2manydots works notes professional copywriters who get into the skin of your target audience. They know how to unravel complicated topics and present them in a clear way. This way, your message comes through without noise. As in this blog post.

Clear writing is one of the ways 2manydots achieves better results with clients. Contact us without obligation and find out how we can help.