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Displaying items by tag: readability
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 14:50

Grading Content for Readability has Limitations

Copy grading services, such as Flesch-Kincaid, attempt to score content according to readability and difficulty. (The last sentence scored high in difficulty and low in reading ease. That’s not good.) Content writers worry about these scores because many clients want content scored at 8 or below. Generally, this means writing short, simple, active sentences. But not always. Like so many rules, this one is meant to be bent. Writers need to mix up the tempo and style of their writing. Let’s take the first few lines of the prologue in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: “It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second birthday. When, as usual, the flower was delivered, he took off the wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective Superintendent Morell who, when he retired, had moved to Lake Siljan in Dalarna.” That comes up as a 10.5 in grade level (or difficulty) and reading ease of 58.1. Eh, not so good, either. These are a few sentences with Flesch-Kincaid grade level scores and reading ease percentages: “I ran a marathon.” 3.6/75.8% “I ran a marathon and had a good overall time.” 4.8/78.2% “I ran a marathon, had a good overall time and didn’t get too sore.” 5.0/83.8% This one is surprising: “I ran a marathon last week, in the rain and when I wasn’t feeling too well; so, I didn’t run very well but I tried.” 2.9/96% What do you think? The last example sentence seems bulky and too complex to me, but it scored well. My point: Content graders are tools; not rules.

Published in Writing style