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Writing and readability

15 Nov

Pia Savage points out in her comment on the previous post that the “score” in those readability tests comes most likely from the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. This has been around since John Howard was in short pants; we learned about it, and similar measures, in Dip Ed in 1964, and they were venerable then. The grade level is calculated with the following formula:

flesch.png

Obviously one cannot “fail” such a test, nor is it in itself a good or bad thing to get a particular result as the test totally ignores both meaning and context. That is a serious failing. Nonetheless, it is a useful indicator of the likelihood of communicating effectively.

I am however something of a fan of the Plain Language movement. I spent a very profitable year in 1978 studying Language Variation and Stylistics with Professor R D Eagleson, one of the Australian gurus of that movement. I attach his Writing in Plain English.

Writing in Plain English (PDF)

NOTE: Just out of curiosity I checked my South Sydney Herald article. It comes up as “Junior High”, about right for such a piece. Today’s editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald gets the same score.

Later

A much more detailed readability test.

Readability Results

The following table contains the readability results for https://ninglun.wordpress.com.

Reading Level Results

 

Summary Value
Total sentences 1025
Total words 9121
Average words per Sentence 8.90
Words with 1 Syllable 5663
Words with 2 Syllables 1975
Words with 3 Syllables 1017
Words with 4 or more Syllables 466
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 16.26%
Average Syllables per Word 1.59
Gunning Fog Index 10.06
Flesch Reading Ease 63.05
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.68

And from the site that did that comes further information:

Philip Chalmers of Benefit from IT provided the following typical Fog Index scores, to help ascertain the readability of documents.

Typical Fog Index Scores

 

Fog Index Resources
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader’s Digest
8 – 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 – 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can’t ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up



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3 Comments

Posted by on November 15, 2007 in blogging, Observations, writing

 

3 responses to “Writing and readability

  1. AV

    November 15, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test

    There is, or used to be, a plug-in for this on Microsoft Word.

     
  2. ninglun

    November 15, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Still available, I think.

    Testing the Readability of Your Blog by Lorelle on WordPress is good on this too.

     
  3. AV

    November 16, 2007 at 12:56 am

     
 
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