VisibleThread – Language Analysis Platform

How to decide what is a good readability score?

< 1 min read

Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

Readability Score

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: