Updated 11.16.2023 by Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
Readability is the ease with which a reader understands your writing. You’ve faced the frustration of wading through a piece more than once in order to understand it. But you can help your readers avoid that irritation.
Easy reading is part of the recipe for simple, clear writing. Your readers are busy and distracted. They want to understand what you have to say and they want to do so quickly.
When you write in a style that is readable, you help them do so.
Simple writing does not mean that your ideas are simple, but rather that you present them in a way that is accessible.
There are only a few instances when easy readability may not apply: academic writing, technical writing, and legal writing, for instance. Even in those projects, clarity is important.
Clear, readable writing is the mark of both quality content and quality copywriting – articles, blog posts, web pages, letters, social media, emails, books, and most any project you undertake.
The good news is that there is an easy, measurable way you can check your writing to find out how readable it is. With a few simple edits, you can make it easy (or easier) to read.
The most familiar tools are the Flesch Reading Ease scale and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale. The scales are included in many word processors. If your program doesn’t include this checker, you can use an online Flesch-Kincaid readability test instead.
The two scales rate your text with numeric scores by measuring word length and sentence length.
Flesch Reading Ease: this score indicates how easy it is to read the text. Higher scores indicate material that is easier to read (with 120 as the highest score). Lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read. An average 6th grade student produces written work with a readability ease score of 60-70.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: this score shows the text’s readability by the average U.S. student according to grade and month. For example, a score of 6.2 indicates a reading ability of a student who is in the second month of the 6th grade.
The simplest way to find out if your writing is ready for a wide audience is to test it.
The lower the grade level, the faster the read. Even those who read at higher levels will respond better to copy written at a 6th or 7th grade level. It’s a format that is simple enough to get your message across quickly and also allows you to reach audience members who may not have strong reading skills.
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