When you first launch a plain language program and start scoring for readability, one of the first questions you’ll hear is; “what’s a good readability score?”.
It’s a great question, and like many simple questions, it can be hard to provide a good answer. Here’s a practical way to approach it.
Just set a readability target by using well-known novels as a benchmark. And use those scores as your guideline. For example, use the readability score for Harry Potter, or Issac Asimov as a reference point.
Why it works so well
Everyone can relate to well-known novels. So it’s much easier to say “well, we’re writing for kids, therefore try to have a readability score close to Harry Potter.” Or if you’re writing content with a more technical subject matter, you might compare with Issac Asimov. And just say, “Just try to write as well as Issac Asimov.” This is a far better approach than offering a subjective opinion like; “I don’t think your writing is that clear.”
Turns out in fact, that when we scored these 3 novels:
- Harry Potter – The Philosophers Stone (JK Rowling),
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) and
- The Best of Issac Asimov (Issac Asimov)
Using VT Writer, they have very similar readability scores. Instinctively, you might expect Issac Asimov to be less readable than Harry Potter.
Here’s how they score:
As you see:
- Flesch Readability (one of the oldest and most reliable readability formulas) ranges from 72 to 78. Read our blog post on What’s behind the Flesch Reading Ease Test.
- Grade Level (based on US school grade) ranges from 5.3 to 5.9.
- LIX (difficulty measure used to score both English and non-English texts) ranges from 28 to 30.
Simplicity and clarity are what these three novels have in common. Regardless of the audience, they target. These scores should convince those in your organization to aim for low-grade levels in their own writing.
Great, so how do I get started?
- Source some novels that you feel represent good writing.
- Next sign into VT Writer, and upload the novels.
- Finally set your thresholds in the Settings area of VT Writer.
- It can be tricky to say ‘what is a good readability score’.
- Reference well-known novels as a way to guide what is good. Use books that your colleagues creating content will know of.
- Set thresholds in VT Writer accordingly.