Incredibly useful: readability statistics

Word count: 279 words

Reading time: Just over a minute

If you’ve read my book, you’ll understand that I’m a zealot for readability statistics. These handy dandy numbers rate the readability of your writing.

How do readability statistics work? Well, the various indices look at the length of words, sentences and paragraphs and the volume of passive voice in your writing and then assign a grade level to it.

Theoretically, if the index says your piece of writing is grade 9 that means you need a grade 9 education to understand it. I use the word “theoretically” because I find people tend to imagine they should be aiming at a grade 12 level or higher. In fact, the LOWER your readability level, the better you are doing. I usually advise aiming for a grade 9 level or lower.

If you use MS Word software for writing you can set your preferences to run a readability analysis every time you run a spellcheck. (Consult your Help menu for instructions.) But there’s also an online option that I really like and, today it’s my website of the week. Yes, I know the English at the top of the page is less than perfect but I assume it was written by someone who speaks English as a second language. Besides, the tool works so well, I’m willing to forgive the errors.

Note that this page offers more than one index. (They all measure in slightly different ways so the results also differ.) I find that the Gunning Fog is usually the hardest to please while the Coleman Liau is the most forgiving.

Finally, the Flesch Reading Ease (shown at the very bottom of the list) is a grade out of 100. I always aspire to hit more than 50. Higher is better, here.

If you want to learn more about readability statistics, check out my book, 8-1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better.

Photo courtesy go_XunuReviews, Flickr Creative Commons