Many of my Wordshaker ghostwriting clients have asked me to take quite complicated documents and boil them down to something more readable and easy to understand.
There is a test called the Flesch Reading Ease which can be used to determine the readability of any document from marketing materials to academic papers, depending on who your prime audience is. Nobody wants to plough through a memoir that’s written like a PhD thesis, likewise nobody wants to read a medical research paper that’s written like a picture book for a five-year old! So, getting readability just right is a must for all writers – whatever their discipline or genre.
Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a written text. In natural language, readability depends on:
· The content – complexity of vocabulary and syntax.
· The presentation – typographic issues such as font size, line height and line length.
However, readability is more than simply legibility. Higher readability makes the reading process easier and quicker and is especially important for those who do not have a high reading comprehension. By raising the readability level of a text from mediocre to good you can make the difference between the success and failure of your communication goals.
In the Flesch Reading Ease Test, a higher score indicates material that is easier to read and a lower score indicates material that is more difficult to read. The best text should contain shorter sentences and words. A score between 60 and 70 is acceptable for 'every-day' text and average comprehension.
Reader's Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine about 52, while the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the 30s. A simple one-syllable word sentence such as 'the cat sat on the mat' would have a score of about 116. Many government agencies and insurance companies in the UK and the USA use the reading ease test as a standard test of readability and like to have a score of 45 or greater.
The table below shows readability against scorings.
90-100 very easy
70-79 fairly easy
50-59 fairly difficult
0-29 very confusing
You can check the readability score of your text or manuscript against the Flesch readability formula by accessing www.readabilityformulas.com