Apr 21, 2011

Readability Tests

Do you wonder if what you write is easy reading for the general public, or whether you’re writing over their heads? You can find out with just a few easy keystrokes.
There are several industry standard tests for readability, the two most common being the Flesch-Kincaid grade level and the Gunning Fog score. More than one free site will examine your text and provide you the results of each of the tests in just a few seconds. How can this information help the writer?

If you write for medical, legal or trade publications where the readers will be your peers in that field, you wouldn’t want your writing to be too simplistic, at grade school level. Conversely, if you were submitting a piece to a parenting magazine or making a guest post on a pet blog, you wouldn’t want to come off as a Rhodes Scholar, leaving your audience scratching their heads.

With only a high school education to my credit, I think that my personal writing style is easy to understand, but just for giggles decided to put it to the test.

I checked a blog post I made earlier today using the readability test at Joe’s Web Tools. It came back with:

Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score of 65.2 (0 to 100, higher is best)
Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 10.5th grade
Gunning Fog index of 12.9 (avg is 12, lower is best)

I ran the same text at Online-Utility with similar results, but the second test also gave me a breakdown of the number of words in the text, number of characters and syllables per word and average words per sentence. Taking it further, the results even spit out a few sentences that it thought should be rewritten, but didn’t indicate why. I thought the three sentences listed were well written and easily understandable so chose to ignore the recommendation since I don't know the reason behind it.

Since my intended audience is John and Jane Q. Public, I think my results are within range of their expected readability level.

As a writer, do you see any value in checking your work with a readability test?

I'm taking the A-Z Blogging Challenge, where I will post something from each letter of the alphabet on the corresponding day in April, except for Sunday, on (hopefully) all four of my blogs. You can see my other blogs in the sidebar - More of Marie Anne.


  1. I like this. Will have to check out a few of mine. Thanks. :)

  2. Sometimes I do. Not sure why though.

  3. I used to use these tools, then stopped for no apparent reason. Thanks for the reminder. I tend to write run-on sentences and these readability tools help me to nix that.

  4. Wow. Didn't know such text existed! Thank you so much for sharing and happy to meet you via A-Z. Off to check some of my writing on the sites :)

  5. After years of teaching first graders, my writing became undoubtedly very simplistic. Thanks for the additional writing tools.

  6. That was fun! I entered paragraphs from three articles and received three varied results (sort of like submitting to three different editors.) Guess I'll just stick to writing.

  7. This is really interesting. My most recent food post is at about a grade 5.4 level. But, yesterday's entry about my actor friend is at an 11th grade level. Looks like I have different writing styles depending on the topic.

  8. I used to check mine for readability when I first started writing but it isn't always that useful. Some things need to be written a certain way and as long as they make sense, I'm happy with it!

  9. This is cool. I just checked my Q-post (b/c my R-post is a poem) and the Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score is 65.7 and the grade level is 7.9th grade. The Gunning Fog index is 9.7. I'll try this again, thanks for the resource.

    I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

  10. Interesting! I'm heading over here now to test-drive it!

    My “S” Post
    My “R” Post

  11. I've used these before. They're interesting!

  12. Neat! I'll have to look into those to see how reader friendly some of my posts are. Thanks for posting these. :)

  13. This is an interesting topic. I get wildly varying results, depending on the text I submit. That's to be expected, though, considering the variations in style, voice, and target audience.

  14. I have been told I write well, but that is usually after I edit my work.

    Sometimes when I short change that step, my writing is sloppy and disorganized.

    On many occasion, I have gone back to re-read my work and have found some glaring errors in grammar, spelling and readability.

    Lately I have been trying to improve my vocabulary and speak on a more intellectual level, mainly because of my business clientele.

    However when blogging, I try to use a conversational tone that I would use with my friends and family. It doesn't always happen depending upon my content, but I do try to make sure what I am writing, people can understand.

  15. Thanks for the tip! Going to check it out now. :)

  16. Tried it and would be really interested to know what results other people got, because mine are incredibly close to your numbers!

    "The Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score is 65.8 (0 to 100, higher is best)
    The Flesch-Kincaid grade level is 10th grade
    The Gunning Fog index is 12.9 (average is 12, lower is best)"

  17. Interesting. I'll have to check this out.