How to use... Readability Scores

by ProWritingAid May 15, 2016, 1 Comments

How to Use The Transitions Report

Your ProWritingAid Summary Report will provide you with a variety of readability scores that have been calculated using some of the top tools out there. Each tool calculates their score in a slightly different way but the results should be within the same ballpark.

The Flesch Reading Ease Score

This is the most well-known readability test out there (even the US military use it to assess the readability of their technical manuals). It calculates the total number of words in each sentence, and then the total number of syllables in each word, and gives you two scores:

  1. A number score between 1 and 120 (the higher the number, the more readable the document is).

  2. A grade score that shows what American school year you’d need to be at to understand it.

We suggest targeting between 60 and 70 for fiction, editorial or business writing. This would mean you’re trying to hit about grade 7 (meaning someone in seventh grade could probably understand it).

Dale Chall grade scale

Read more about the Flesch Reading Ease Score here.

The Coleman-Liau Formula

This readability score is similar to the Flesch Score but relies on characters instead of syllables per word. Instead of using syllable/word and sentence length indices, Meri Coleman and T. L. Liau believed that computerized assessments understand characters more easily and accurately than counting syllables and sentence length.

The Coleman-Liau formula returns a simple U.S. grade-level score from 1-12. We recommend targeting a score of around 7.

Read more about the Coleman-Liau Formula here

The Automated Readability Index

The Automated Readability Index calculates based on characters per word (instead of syllables, similar to the Coleman Liau Index) and words per sentence. Its scores correspond to U.S. grade levels. If you get a score result with a decimal, round up to the next whole number.

We suggest targeting (yep, you guessed it) a score between 6 and 7.

automated readability scorecard

Read more about The Automated Readability Index here

The Dale-Chall Grade

The Dale-Chall Readability Formula uses a list of 3000 words that fourth-grade American students could reliably understand to calculate a readability score based on how many of those words were found in the text.

dale-chall readability scorecard

Read more about the Dale-Chall Readability Score Here

Last thoughts

Like any algorithm-based scoring system, your readability metric should be taken with a pinch of salt. You know better than anyone who your audience is and can guess at what level they read. If you are writing a Young Adult novel, you should target 80 or higher; if you are writing for the Harvard Business Review, you should feel comfortable with scores as low as 30.

Note: As of April 2016, the ProWritingAid Summary Report is only available as part of the google docs add-on. It will be rolled out to the online app, desktop app and extension asap.

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Comments (1) Add Yours

  • brfkol4 says
    I am not convinced you measure 'difficult to read' but 'difficult to understand.' Each time I include a non-English name or expression, or a non-American view, the sentence is regarded as 'difficult to read." Is this difficult to READ? Two artists discussing paintings by Frances Bacon. “Terrible paintings,” Erik said. “Only contorted people.” What exactly is it that is difficult to read? Terrible paintings? Erik said? Only contorted people? Similarly, when a person express a Darwinist view of human existence, it is deemed to be difficult to read. I can see no difficulty to read in the following piece of dialogue between two persons: "There’s only survival or extermination. This principle has created everything you can see around you, yourself included.” what exactly is difficult to read in this paragraph?
    Posted On Mar 04, 2018 | 08:38
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