If you know your Flesch Reading Ease scores–bravo!! The concept of a readability test is new to me. Whether you had formal training and are familiar with the application or stumbled upon it yourself, the option of Flesch Readability is hidden within Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, and apparently the new version of Word 2016.
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 blog purposes, my objective is between 60 and 70. There are 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 isn’t so simple unless you’re a math whiz:
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–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 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. I believe, however, that 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 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. 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. Don’t worry about the formula. The capability is right in Word for your ease of use!
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 in 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.
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 was the post Time to Learn About Flickr and Creative Commons Licenses at Reading Ease–65.9% and Grade Level of 6.7. My scores for this entry: Reading Ease–47.3 and Grade Level of 11.1.