Why readability matters
A readability score is a measure of how easy your text is to read. Your readability score shows what grade level of students could understand and engage with your writing. For instance, a score of 7 means that seventh-grade students could read your work.
At ProWritingAid, we use a readability score calculator called the Flesch formulas to calculate your score. It measures factors like sentence length and word familiarity. Our readability calculator measures grade levels from elementary school through graduate school. If you have a lower readability score than you expected, don't worry—that doesn't mean your writing or ideas are too immature.
Documents with an accessible readability score are often more effective than those with a higher score. By using clear, uncomplicated language, you make it easy for your readers engage with your document and let your great ideas shine.
Many amateur writers think they need to use complicated language to impress their readers. Not so!
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.
If your readability score is too high, you need to fix it. 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." Your goal as a writer is to show off your ideas, not your vocabulary.
Shorten your sentences
Long sentences are exhausting for your readers. Sometimes, you must use long sentences to explain a complex idea. It's okay to use long sentences sometimes. But try to follow long sentences with shorter sentences to help your reader engage with your text.
Jargon and domain-specific language can impede your audience's understanding. Use terms that everyone will understand to make your document more readable.
Eliminate extra words from your sentences
As we've mentioned, the longer your sentences, the higher your readability score. By removing glue words from your sentences, you can make them shorter and clearer.
Use active voice
Active sentence constructions are typically shorter and cleared than passive constructions. For instance, "Jane opened her present" is much simpler to understand than "Her present was opened by Jane." Fixing passive voice can improve your readability score.
Remember, the more readable your writing, the more effective it is.