Readability

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What is readability and how can it help you?

Wondering what “readability” means and what a “readability score” is useful for? You’re looking in the right place! Read on for a potted history, along with a few examples of modern-day usage.

Readability: what it is and why it matters

The written word is used to communicate a whole host of ideas and information. But, what if without even being aware of it, the way you were presenting your ideas – the language you use, the length of your sentences, your use of grammar – was actually getting in the way of people engaging with your message? Readability scores are one way in which you can measure whether written information is likely to be understood by the intended reader.

What is a readability score?

A readability score is a computer-calculated index which can tell you roughly what level of education someone will need to be able to read a piece of text easily. The score itself identifies a grade level corresponding to the number of years of education a person has had.

A score of around 6 is the approximate reading level on completion of elementary school in the USA or primary school in the UK, going up to a score of around 10-12 on completion of high school or secondary school.

If text is too difficult or awkward to read then messages may not be engaged with or understood. However, if reading is too easy your audience might feel patronised or just plain bored. Either way the readability of a given text can influence the extent to which people engage with and take on the message of that text.