Recently I discovered that Word can show you readability statistics about your documents. In Word 2007 onwards, go to the top left home button, and click on ‘Word Options’ like in Screenshot 1. Then go to the ‘Proofing’ option and check the box labelled ‘Show readability statistics’, like in Screenshot 2. You’ll then need to do a full spell-check on your document. At the end of the spell-check some statistics on your document will appear, similar to those in Screenshot 3.
The readability statistics are according to the Flesch-Kincaid scale. The ‘Reading Ease’ is a number between 0 and 100, and represents the ease of reading. Roughly, anything above 90 means an 11 year old could read it (i.e. simple English) and anything below 30 is considered difficult and best understood by university graduates. Some common examples include Reader’s Digest with a readability of 65, Time magazine around 52 and Harvard Law Review in the low 30s. Long words affect the scale quite a bit, so I’m sure my excessive use of the word ‘visualisation’ in my thesis helped me gain a low readability score. More information and the formula used can be found on Wikipedia.
The ‘Grade Level’ translates the ‘Reading Ease’ into something we are more familiar with – school years. Although based on American school years it’s similar enough to the UK system to understand (see Wikipedia entry on the United States school grade system). The formula generally gives a number between 0 and 12. Scores of less than 0 mean the text is probably monosyllabic and each sentence is just one word. Higher than 12 indicate the text requires further education to be fully understood. My result is 11.5, which translates to a 17 year old.
How readable are your documents? Anyone have more long-wordy and difficult to read documents than me?!