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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Readability statistics in Word

When word has finished a spelling and grammar check and if you have checked the Flesch and Flesch-Kincaid options in word, you should see something like the image on the left. This gives an idea of the level you are writing at. The Flesch-Kincaid level approximates to the American High School system. Here the grade level is 12.0 - meaning 12th grade, age around 17-18 would be the lowest level at which to use this piece of writing.
Now take a look at this explanation of the Reading Ease formula. As you'll see 17.7 means you need to be a college graduate to deal with the text. There is also a suggestion that the text may be confusing to some readers. Perhaps worth having another look, particularly to check on sentence length and punctuation?


  1. What is the desired level for flesch reading level and flesch-Kincaid grading level in academic writing?

  2. Yashar: Here is an excerpt from a website on this subject:

    The Flesch Reading Ease Test is the world’s most widely used test – the standard readability test used by the U.S. Department of Defense and many other government organizations. Microsoft has built a modified version of the test into Word.

    Here are a few sample ranges of test scores, from higher readability (top of list) to lower readability (bottom of list):

    60s Reader’s Digest
    50s Time magazine
    40s The Wall Street Journal
    30s Harvard Law Review; white papers
    20s IRS forms; academic papers
    10s Many high-tech web sites

    When writing for business, aim for a score above 50. If the topic limits what you can do, you may have to settle for 30 to 50. But anything below 30 is too hard to read. Many readers will give up. You will lose sales. So, dig in and start rewriting.

    Readers of academic and scientific writing generally tolerate lower readability than readers of business writing. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should strive for a low score in academic and scientific writing. All readers appreciate high readability, often unconsciously.

    The Takeaway: Get in the habit of checking your Flesch Reading Ease readability score while you check your spelling. Aim high. With continued practice, you will be able to attain high readability almost effortlessly. Your readers will notice.

    In other words, you should aim higher - in your case probably by decreasing sentence length.