Why readability matters
A readability score is a measure of how easy your text is to read. Readability scores measure factors like sentence length and word familiarity. In simple terms, a readability score predicts whether your reader will understand your writing. Your job as a writer is to connect with readers. If your work is too hard to read for your audience, they won’t engage.
There are many different types of readability tests. Some of the most common are the Flesch formulas, the Dale-Chall formula, and the Gunning fog formula. Each test measures different factors and presents the information in different ways.
At ProWritingAid, we use the Flesch formulas, which score your work from 0.0 to 100.0. The higher your score, the easier your work is to read. We recommend keeping your text between a score of 70.0 and 80.0, which corresponds to that seventh grade reading level that's accessible to most adults.
Fixing Poor Readability
If your readability score is poor, here’s what you can do:
Choose easier words
Look for complicated words that you can replace with simpler ones. For instance, instead of saying "terminated," say "ended."
Shorten your sentences
Long sentences are exhausting for your readers. Sometimes, you'll need to use long sentences to explain a complex idea. It's okay to use long sentences sometimes. But you should try to follow long sentences with shorter sentences to help your reader engage with your text.
Many amateur writers think they need to use complicated language to impress their readers. Not so! By using clear, uncomplicated language, you can help your readers engage with your document and let your great ideas shine.
Audiences Prefer Documents That Are Easy to Read
Most audiences read at a lower reading level than you might expect. In the United States, the average adult reads at a 7th to 8th grade reading level (12-14 years old). In the United Kingdom, researchers recommend that writers write with vocabulary and sentence structure targeted towards 9-10 year olds.
If you're writing fiction, blog posts, or other content targeted towards an audience without technical or specialized knowledge, you should use accessible language. If you're writing for an audience with technical or specialized knowledge (an academic paper, for instance), you can target a higher readability because your audience will have the knowledge they need to engage with your text.