Google Measures The Readability--Yikes!--of What You Write

Posted by: Reena Jana on December 8, 2008

Last night I was typing using Google Docs at home, and when I used the Word Count tool, I discovered some metrics that I didn’t know about: scores to show me how “readable” my prose was. As I scrolled down the screen that popped up when I simply wanted to see how many words I’d written, I discovered not only the average length of my sentences and words, but also what grade level could understand what I wrote, as well as the ease to which they would absorb it, and what my “automated readiblity index” was—at least for that first draft I’d banged out.

Interestingly, the Google Docs tool links to Wikipedia entries for the scales they use to measure writing: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, and the Automated Readability Index. Note that it seems as if writing for a middle school reader corresponds with a more instantly readable text. In other words, writing for an audience of Ph.D.s in astrophysics or French post-structuralist theory might not be so desirable if “readability” is the goal.

Anyway, here’s my score for a short first draft of the document I was typing, just for a real-life example.

Counts Selection Document
Words: - 618
Characters (no spaces): - 3050
Characters (with spaces): - 3667
Paragraphs: - 17
Sentences: - 51
Pages (approximate): - 1
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: - 3.00
Average words per sentence: - 12.12
Average characters per word: - 4.94
Average words per page: - 618.00
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] - 64.76
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] - 7.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] - 8.00

Reader Comments

Rizwan

January 7, 2009 6:55 AM

Here's a much better way of checking for readability - http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx - it actually tells you the level rather than giving you numbers that need investigating! As you said, middle school level is the way forward for easy reading. This is particularly relevant for blogs, although I must admit it's not easy!

Regards

Rizwan
http://multichannelthinking.blogspot.com

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