Your job is not to teach your readers new, big words. Your job is to communicate value to your readers. You are a professional problem solver. Even if the problem is simply that your audience is bored! You’re not their English teacher!
When you are trying to sell, you want 100% of your target audience to be able to understand what your are saying.
Your goal is not to trip them up with big words. Nor is it to lose your readers in a maze of run-on sentences.
Especially on the internet, you want to write as clearly and as readable as possible. People have a very short attention span! If you can’t explain it to them, someone else can!
It is impossible to be objective about your own writing. Probably, it’s not possible to be completely objective about any of your creative work. You love your work; be honest.
I submit to you that the Flesch Kincaid Readability test can objectively tell you how readably your writing is.
What is the Flesch Kincaid Readability Tests?
The Flesh Kincaid readability tests determine the difficultly of reading by measuring word length and sentence length. It is the standard for many U.S. government agencies.
It likely determined what books you could or couldn’t read when you were in elementary school. I vividly remember in 3rd grade I was told that I couldn’t read the Book Thief because it was too advanced for me. Well, I read it anyway, and I will admit I barely know what that book was about.
How Does the Flesch Kincaid Measure Readability?
Flesch Kincaid provides a score 0-100 based on word length and sentence length.
The test measures an average of sentence length and an average of syllables per word. Longer words and longer sentences lower your score, indicating difficulty. Short words and sentences bring your score higher, less difficult.
The formula looks like this
The score determines at which reading level the writing is.
What reading level should you write at?
Most people graduate 12th grade, so 12th grade? Or should you write as intelligently as possible?
Absolutely not! I think it many circumstances you’re biggest struggle will be to simplify your writing. Even sophisticated readers, don’t want to slog through a difficult article.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most American English-speaking adults read at a intermediate level.
Yet the best-selling novels ever, Harry Potter had an average Flesch Kincaid score of 72.83, putting it at a 7th grade reading level.
Earnest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea was written at a 4th grade level.
In general, you probably want to write simpler than you think.
Limitations of Flesch Kincaid Tests
Measuring is very good in many circumstances. According to Tim Ferris, simply measuring your calories will beat the best personal trainers in dieting results.
But can readability really be reduced down to the mere length of the words and sentences?
Necessary Long Words Will Skew Flesch Kincaid Tests
Commonly known long words will skew test results. Say you are reading a article about a medical condition. The long, multi-syllabled words might be difficult the first few times you read it, but by the end of the article, it’s just as common to you as any other word.
Flesch Kincaid Doesn’t Know Your Audience
They don’t. You do. Are your writing academic content or artistic content? Readability might not be your primary concern.
But I would push back against this notion a little. Genius lives in simplicity in many ways. Even your most highly educated audience members I bet appreciate elegant simplicity. If you can say less, say less. If you can say it more simply, do so.
Did I Follow My Own Advice With This Article? Not really. This article was written at a 9th grade reading level.
Thank you sincerely for reading! My name is Evan River Welch. I’m a digital marketing learner with Simplilearn, learning SEO, content marketing, analytics, and social media marketing. Feel welcome to write any comments that popped up for you. And do not hesitate to contact me!