Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score

Not sure how many of you know about the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score that measures the relative accessibility of a written document to an audience based on a formula. Well, the highest score possible is like 120 or so, for a document that reads, "Go. Come. Eat."

After that the score drops quickly. Children learning to read pass down into the 90's by third grade or so, with most successful children's books staying above 80. Reader's Digest makes sure it stays at 65 or a little higher, while Newsweek and Time Magazine have figured out that for maximum readership, stay between 50 to 55. Da Vinci Code was an easily devoured 70.

As you drop below 50, you start losing the general population. The slope is steep. By 40, you have a document that most people will not read. Below 30, and forget it. Only weird people will read something that difficult.

Well, I am delighted to report that Something Else came in at 52.3, meaning that it is quite accessible yet clearly intended for adults.

To give you a better sense, here are some figures. Remember, the lower the score, the more sophisticated and taxing on the intellect of the reader. If you're curious, try reading some of the stuff at 27.8. Now, of course this is an oversimplification, because the subject matter plays a critical role on whether the material is difficult. One could manipulate words and sentence structure to make something easy have a low score or vice versa. In general though, more complex material requires more complex words and sentence structures.

See Dick Run: 115
Goodnight Moon: 110
Green Eggs and Ham: 100
The Giving Tree: 95
The National Enquirer: 90
Charlotte's Web: 90
Harry Potter: 85
Readers's Digest: 65
Arizona Daily Star: 60
Newsweek / Time Magazine: 55
"Something Else": 52.3
Sustainability, Equity, Development Blog: 46.4
Sirocco's Blog (so far): 45.1
An essay on Schopenhauer: 33.8
Some Ken Wilber Material: 32.2
Some Consciousness material (they use frames, so click on "philosophy"): 27.8
Algebraic Topology Guy (ATG): 5
Language spoken by Supreme Being when Bush took office: 0

Yes, the daughter is now officially dating ATG.

4 Comments:

Blogger cpmaz said...

A couple of years ago, I took a business communication class. We had to analyze an insurance policy (Progressive, I think).

It scored a 16 on the Flesch test.

The US Tax Code is even lower.

Ouch.

4/26/2007 1:46 AM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Hmmmm ... now I need to deide whether to use shorter words and sentences to get my score into the 50's, thus increasing readership, or obfuscate more in an attempt to lower it into the 30's and only draw the hard-core readers.

Decisions, decisions.

4/26/2007 8:44 AM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Wohoo!

I put the text of my latest blog post into this analyzer tool, and got the following results:

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 39
Ideally, web page text should be around the 60 to 80 mark on this scale. The higher the score, the more readable the text.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 13
Ideally, web page text should be around the 6 to 7 mark on this scale. The lower the score, the more readable the text.

Gunning-Fog Index: 21
Ideally, web page text should be between 11 and 15 on this scale. The lower the score, the more readable the text. (Anything over 22 should be considered the equivalent of post-graduate level text).

Apparently, my prospective reading audience is shrinking by the post. :)

4/26/2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Sirocco,

Haaaagh!!! HuWaaaagh!!

If you get too smart, none of us will be able to understand you.

If you replace "our situation has profoundly problematic elements" with "this really sucks" your rating will improve dramatically.

4/26/2007 7:26 PM  

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