Published in speld (sa) newsletter Spring 2007

Attention teachers and administrators!

Would you like to be able to assess the level of difficulty of a piece of writing?


Written information isn’t much use if the intended reader cannot easily read and understand it.


As teachers, we often provide written information and instructions for our students and refer them to particular texts in hard copy or online. Have you ever considered whether the level of reading ability needed is appropriate for your students? Can those students with reading difficulties profit from the task or will it be too hard for them?


And those of you who write documents, instruction manuals or design forms, do you adapt the language you use for your audience? Maybe your readers have a reading difficulty, they may have received little schooling, maybe English is not their first language.


MS Word has a built-in feature that will give you a score and the approximate grade level of a piece of writing. This will give you an indication of the number of years of schooling your intended audience will need to have successfully completed to be able to easily read and understand the document on the first reading.


The feature is called the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score.


To display the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Readability Score in Word, follow the steps below:
  • On the Tools menu, click Options.
  • Click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  • Select the ‘Check grammar with spelling’ check box.
  • Select the ‘Show readability statistics’ check box.
  • Click Spelling and Grammar on the Standard toolbar.


Only when Word finishes checking spelling and grammar will it display information about the reading level of the document.


90 – 100 is considered easily understood by an average 5th grader.


60 – 70 is considered easily understood by an average 8th and 9th grader.


0 – 20 is best understood by college graduates.


Reader's Digest magazine has a readability index of approximately 65, Time Magazine scores about 52, and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s.


TRY THIS How many years of schooling would you need to have completed to read this article with ease?


Visit Carol's web site to learn more tips like this one.

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