Are You Aware of Your “Readability Stats”?
by Virginia Williams
If you know your Flesch Reading Ease scores, bravo! The concept of a readability test is new to me. The option of Flesch Readability information is hiding within Word 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013.
Very simply, the test rates text on a 100-point scale. This is important because the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For my blog purposes, the objective is between 60 and 70. There are actually two Flesch tests:
- Flesch Reading Ease
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
If you are familiar with the application, can you guess where this article scores?*
The actual formula to attain your Flesch Reading Ease score reads like some Google rank algorithm:
Take the average sentence length (ASL, which is the number of words divided by the number of sentences) and the average number of syllables per word (ASW, which is the average number of syllables divided by the number of words) to achieve the score.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test rates text on a U.S. school grade level from approx grade 3/4 to 12. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. The suggested score for most documents is approximately 7.0 to 8.0. The recommendation refers to web material for at least two reasons:
- Web reading, whether on a laptop computer, tablet, or cell phone, generally involves readers on a specific mission who quickly scan the document for the information they seek.
- While monitors for desktops or laptops can be sizeable, the reading surface of a tablet or cell phone can be limited reducing the ability to surf complicated websites.
Therefore, the goal with the F-K Grade Level test is to achieve the lower score as it suggests greater readability by the widest audience. MS Word will not score above a Grade 12 level (though there are other readability apps that do). Interestingly enough, the Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level was developed by J. Peter Kincaid and his team under contract to the US Navy in 1975. The F-K test is now common and standard although there are a number of readability tests including the Gunning Fog test.
I’ve been using my old Word 2003 program for years now and am appalled that I never knew about this dandy little piece of Microsoft inclusion. Tucked behind the Spelling and Grammar option under Tools is the option to “turn on” the readability formulas. You won’t have to do anything other than wait until the spell and grammar checker are finished and then wait for it … up pops the toolbox with the F-K info.
The readability text box also includes a number of additional stats such as your word counts (word, sentences…) and averages (sentences in a paragraph…). You can also check for passive sentences as well as fragmented sentences.
In Word 2007 (which included stability and performance improvements), the option is hiding under “Proofing”. You must make sure to check that grammar with spelling is selected, and away you go!
Whether you are looking to raise your blog visits, increase content management, or seek better SEO rankings, this is a super tool to use to test your articles. Are you reaching your target?
*My best scores using this theory are for my post about pictures, at Reading Ease: 65.9% and Grade Level: 6.7. My scores for this post: Reading Ease: 48.4 and Grade Level: 11.0.
Virginia Williams inherited a steamer trunk full of her grandfather’s 90-year-old manuscripts, poems, short stories, and paintings. She is fulfilling a promise to publish his works. Look for Stanley McShane on Amazon.com and in your favorite eBook format, or contact Virginia directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.