Last year, I attended a full day training on writing skills. While I consider myself quite good in this area, I learned something useful in that session. The instructor asked us to get a copy of any document/report that we prepared recently and made us take the readability test in Word.
I fared below average.
While I did badly in the test, I did learn something that I now use on a daily basis.
Readability Test in Word
In this tutorial, I will show you how to take the readability test in Word and how to ace it. The tutorial covers:
- Overview of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test.
- How to get the readability score in Word 2013.
- How to improve the readability score.
Flesch–Kincaid Readability Test
The readability test in word calculates the Flesch–Kincaid score. Now don't worry about the name or the methodology (you don't need to calculate anything). All you need to know is that there is a score that indicates how difficult it is to read the text in the Word document.
A score of:
- 90-100 can easily be understood by an average 11-year-old student.
- 60-70 can easily be understood by a 13-to 15-year-old student.
- 0-30 can best be understood by university graduates.
So what should you aim for?
The answer lies in who your audience is.
If you are writing for the Harvard Law Journal or Nature magazine, a score less than 30 would also do.
But in most cases, we are writing for our clients, bosses, or blogs (as in my case). Despite our audience being highly educated, they are always short on time and has an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish.
Hence, it makes sense to make it as easy as possible.
It is a good idea to aim for a score above 60.
How to Get the Readability Score in Word
You don't need to calculate it. MS Word has a feature that automatically gives you the Flesch–Kincaid score based on the text that you have in it.
Enabling Readability Score Assessment in Word
By default, the readability statistics are not shown in Word. You need to enable it first. Here is how to do it:
- Launch Microsoft Word.
- Go to File –> Options.
- In the Word Options dialogue box, select Proofing.
- In the Proofing Options, click on the checkbox for the option Show Readability Statistics.
- Click OK.
Getting the Readability Score for the Selected Text
Once you have enables the readability statistics, here are the steps to get the score:
- Select the Text for which you want the readability score.
- Go to Review –> Proofing –> Spelling and Grammar.
- You can also use the keyboard shortcut – F7.
- Once you're done with Spell Check, it will show a dialogue box.
As you can see in the image above, the readability score is 76.2, which indicates high readability ease.
How to Increase the Readability Score
Here are some tips to increase the readability of your text:
- Reduce the Number of Sentences per paragraph.
- This may depend on your audience. As a general rule, less number of sentences per paragraph increases the readability. If you have long paragraphs, try to split it into two or more. There is no benchmark here, but 4-5 sentences her paragraph should be fine.
- Reduce the number of words in a sentence.
- Again, it will depend on your audience. A sentence with less number of words tends to have higher readability.
- Reduce characters per word.
- In general, words with less number of characters are easier to comprehend. Given that we are always short on time, it's important to have simple and short words. You can't always do this – for example in technical writing or medical journals – but if there is any scope, try and use short words.
See Also: Improve your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Score
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