What’s your readability score and why should you care?
2/2/22 / Olga Glinskii
We all want to make sure our audience can easily understand what we write. Most people do not have the patience to sift through complicated sentences and jargon. They want to get to the punch line and move on with their day.
Convention dictates writing at a 7th-8th grade reading level for general audience. Better yet, simplifying the text to grade 5 or 6 will help readers with lower levels of literacy. Greater understanding leads to greater engagement from your audience.
A ‘reading level analysis’ is a helpful way to make sure that your writing is accessible. There are a number of tools available that analyze a text’s reading level. They rate the complexity by looking at the number of syllables, sentence length, and vocabulary.
Longer sentences with words that contain more syllables are harder to understand. On the flip side, short sentences with simple words are much easier for everyone to get through. If you’re using Microsoft Word, it’s easy to use the built-in grammar checker to keep your writing in check. See what I did there? Hah.
If you want to dive deeper, here are some free websites that you can use to take it to the next level:
- Hemingway Editor is my all-time favorite. You can also download their desktop app for an additional fee. I find that pasting shorter segments of text directly on the website really helps with the editing process. For example, some sections are at a 6th grade reading level. I leave those alone. Others are closer to 10th grade and need revising. Separating it out into sections makes it easier to address each one on its own. They also highlight the most troublesome areas of the text for easy editing.
- Readability Test | WebFX is another free tool out there. It gives you an option to test the overall readability for your website. You can also type or paste in segments of text. It also gives you readability scores from several different calculators! These include the most commonly used Flesh Kincaid Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level. They also give you the Gunning Fog Score; SMOG Index; Coleman Liau Index; and the Automated Readability Index.
- Other tools like Grammarly and Readable include free and paid versions for analyzing your text.
You can play around with these various tools to see which one fits your needs!