Readability Calculators (Part of Our Editorial 101 Series)

Angela Williams, Editor, Palio

Readability is the measure of ease with which a text may be read and is necessary to ensure your message reaches your intended audience. Below, you’ll find a few of the more widely known readability formulas* used to calculate reading ease and grade level.

*Note that while these formulas provide a general sense of a text’s readability, they cannot guarantee 100% comprehension or predict how well your message will be understood by your intended audience.

Flesch-Kincaid

The Flesch Reading Ease score assesses readability. The higher the score on this 100-point scale (for which a score of 60 or 70 is considered optimal), the easier it is to understand the text. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score approximates reading level. A seventh-grade reading level is appropriate for most commercial and professional audiences, whereas a fourth-grade reading level is best suited for those with low literacy.

You can determine these scores by following these steps in Microsoft Word:

On a Mac (Word 2008):

  1. Under the Word menu, select Preferences, then click Spelling and Grammar under Authoring and Proofing Tools.
  2. Click the Show readability statistics check box if it’s not already checked.
  3. Highlight the text you would like to check. Under the Tools menu, click Spelling and Grammar. When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, a Readability Statistics box will display your scores.

On a PC (Word 2007):

  1. Right-click on the Microsoft Office icon in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. Select Customize Quick Access Toolbar, then Proofing.
  2. Click the Show readability statistics check box if it’s not already checked.
  3. Highlight the text you would like to check. Under the Review menu, click the Spelling & Grammar icon. When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, a Readability Statistics box will display your scores.

SMOG

Harry McLaughlin created the SMOG Readability Formula in 1969 to estimate the years of education needed to understand a text. Since applying the formula longhand could be quite tedious, McLaughlin partnered with programming expert Alain Trottier to develop a free SMOG calculator that does the number crunching for you. Simply copy the text you would like to test into the calculator, click Submit, and voilà.

Fry Method

Edward Fry developed the Fry Graph Readability Formula, or Fry Method, a metric often used to determine a text’s reading level for regulatory purposes – as in the healthcare industry – to ensure comprehension across a wide population. Click here for instructions on how to calculate readability using the Fry formula and graph.

Online-Utility.org

The calculator at Online-Utility.org is a one-stop shop for measuring basic text statistics, like average number of words per sentence, and scores for several common readability scales, like Flesch-Kincaid and SMOG. Just paste your copy into the text box, and click the Process text button.

 

Palio is a full-spectrum global pharmaceutical and consumer advertising, marketing, and communications agency that excels in brand creation and specializes in brand strategy, product launches, global marketing, and digital and integrated media.

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