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Writing and Readability Scores: It Matters

by Grant Draper  |  
January 3, 2014
  |  9,129 views

Creating high-quality content is more important than it's ever been, thanks in part to the recent infamous algorithm updates by Google.

Now, when creating a blog post, article, or any other written content, you must make sure that it's not only highly relevant to your audience but also specifically tailored for them—its language, in particular.

For example, if you're creating a post for a site that gives advice to parents, the post is naturally going to be a lot less formal than if you're creating a post that sets out analyst forecasts and discusses them. The language that you use will be different, as will the readability factor. Before you begin writing, then, it pays to know your audience.

Some Best-Practices for Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web uses skills, language, and design elements that are different from those used for print. Before we discuss readability, let's have a look at a few of the basics of text for the Web:

  • You should use white space. Keep paragraphs short, no more than six lines, and ensure there is clear white space between each.
  • Use shorter words and sentences, depending on your target audience.
  • Use language that is known to the target audience. When writing for technology or corporate markets, for example, some jargon might be necessary.

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scoring

Flesch-Kincaid was developed by Austrian-born Rudolf Flesch, who fled to the US to avoid the Nazi invasion. He was a readability expert who studied law in his home country before going on to graduate from Columbia University with a PhD in English.

Flesch was also a writing consultant and created the Flesch Reading Ease test, and he was the co-creator of the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. He was one of the earliest proponents of writing in plain English.


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Grant Draper is a writer with a love for business and startups, and a content marketing manager at Heating Force. Connect with him via email: grant@grantdraper.co.uk.

LinkedIn: Grant Draper

Twitter: @Grant_A_Draper

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  • by Ira Dember Fri Jan 3, 2014 via web

    Rudolf Flesch is a hero of mine. Decades ago, my dad gave me his copy of Flesch's classic The Art of Plain Talk. Been relying on its advice ever since.

  • by Chris Finnie Fri Jan 3, 2014 via web

    A lower score means the writing is more complex? Not only is that counter-intuitive, but it is the opposite of what I was told by a client that has just mandated use of readability scores. Are you sure?

  • by Michelle Hatch Fri Jan 3, 2014 via iphone

    This is great information. I had always known to write in plain English, but didn't know the specifics. I'm happy to learn the Word has the scoring tool. Thanks!

  • by Lisa Ann Landry Fri Jan 3, 2014 via web

    This is an excellent post and provides just the ammunition I need. You would not believe the push back I get in my social media seminars when I teach writing for a social audience. I recommend writing at a 7th grade level and a reading ease of 60 or higher. Many people feel that is insulting to the reader. When I ask the audience how many of you are insulted by social content that you can quickly scan, read and understand - the first time. No one confesses is insulted. The contrast between the reading ease of comics versus insurance policy - is a perfect example.

    Lisa Ann Landry - Social Media Marketing Trainer
    www.linkedin.com/in/lisaalandry/
    Need a light? I’m an exuberant force of light… Come light up your life!

    Note until this line: reading ease 70.8 grade 6.3 – I Rock!

  • by Sarah Bauer Fri Jan 3, 2014 via web

    Writing simply is often the most challenging. You really have to know what you're talking about to be able to communicate a concept concisely. People who know their stuff don't need fluff!

    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • by Stephanie Vukmanic Fri Jan 3, 2014 via web

    In addition to MS Word, there a several websites with free readability calculators. The three I tend to use the most are:
    Edit Central (Identifies complex words)
    http://www.editcentral.com/gwt1/EditCentral.html#style_diction

    Readability Formulas (Uses 7 readability formulas)
    http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-formula-tests.php

    Online-Utility.org (Suggests sentences to revise)
    http://www.online-utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp

  • by Simon Hillier Mon Jan 6, 2014 via web

    If your maths sucks (as mine does), this is a quick and easy option http://read-able.com/ :)

  • by Sarah Bauer Mon Jan 6, 2014 via web

    So great, @SimonHillier! Thanks!

  • by Derylkorn Tue Oct 17, 2017 via web

    All of you who offer essay writing services, have the balls to stand by what that service is, okay? It’s not illegal. There’s a market for it, Just don’t pretend it’s some great service to mankind, designed to teach struggling students how to write better, by giving them”examples of essays” that they can look at while writing their own original essays right here http://essaytools.com/


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