1. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Any Readability Software Users Out There?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by shamrock838, Feb 28, 2009.

    Any Readability Software Users Out There?:

    I’m a nonfiction writer/photographer and market my efforts to both adult-level and juvenile audiences. In this regard I’m looking for a well-rounded readability program, but I’m a tad confused by the plethora of offerings and readability formulas on the market.

    I do use what’s available with MS Word 2003 and it’s OK for a start. I also have RightWriter 5.0.40.4, which is better. Still, I’m looking for something with more readability options … without having to “spend the moon.”

    Therefore, I’d like to get in touch with other readability software users for their input, experiences, suggestions, etc. Any takers?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    What exactly do you mean by readability softwear? What do you want the kind of program you are looking for to do?
     
  3. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    You mean readibility as in measurements of the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Reading Ease and words per sentences and such?
     
  4. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    That's when you have the days of the week written on your unmentionables. :p
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't see the use of readability software, unless you are only interested in the average words per paragraph and sentence or something, but word does that.

    What readability software cannot do, is determine the complexity of the sentences used. The length of a sentence does not determine the complexity. It cannot detect metaphors, similes, idioms, and so forth.

    The best thing to do is learn how books are written for the age group you are writing for. Check books written for that age group and see if metaphors, idioms, and similes are used, and if so, what kind? What sentence structures are used? Vocabulary is also important.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Readability software does a bit more than that in collecting its metrics, but I do agree that it's somewhat of a junk statistic. Clarity can only really be gauged by a human reader, until the day comes when computers can actually understand what they are reading. Clarity is what most readability measurements are really trying to estimate.
     
  7. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Rei,

    By readability software I'm referring to the formulae of Flesch, Gunning, Kincaid, and a host of others.

    These are mainly statistical counts of syllables, words, sentences, paragraphs in various combinations.

    Of course these are starting points and not an end in themselves ... but it gives you an idea of where I'm headed.

    shamrock838
     
  8. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Architectus,

    I agree with your comments. They would be the next steps after I've compared some representative readability software out there ... to get the proverbial foot in the door.

    I probably need to learn more about age groups, reading levels, and such. Do you have any suggestions on where to find such information? Thanks.

    shamrock838
     
  9. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Cogito,

    Thanks for replying ...

    Are you saying that readability software per se isn't of much practical use for their intended purpose ... and that clarity is still a dimly seen goal on the horizon as far as current computer technology is concerned?

    May I ask how you approach the matter of targeting material to specific age groups and reading levels? Thanks.

    shamrock838
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can talk to me about age groups and reading levels. I'm trained as an educational assistant, and I've worked with everything from preschool to grade six.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Readability software is mostly used to help corporate types to write more clearly. Many business documents are practically unreadable because of rambling sentences, unnecessary and often misused jargon, and too much junk wording. The readability indexes were developed to help executives write proposals and memos that were usable.

    I don't write stories targeted to children or young adults, so I'm not generally concerned with writing for a specific age group. Your best bet there would probably be a research trip to a bookstore. Look at as many other books for your target age group as you can, and pay attention to the word size (and variety) and sentence length.
     
  12. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Cogito,

    Thanks for your insights and suggestions. I'll certainly keep them in mind.

    shamrock838
     
  13. shamrock838
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    shamrock838 Member

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    Rei,

    OK ... suppose I'm doing a nonfiction book for the 8-12 (or 9-14) age group and I want to check out a Barnes & Noble (or Borders) for what's available. This would probably be beyond the scope of most salepersons.

    Got any clues? Thanks.

    shamrock838
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have a science encyclopedia for that age group in my bookcase, Growing Up With Science published by H. S. Stuttman, Connecticut, USA. That was without even going to a bookstore.
     
  15. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily, and even if it would be, it's not beyond the publishers. They will have it in their catalogue listing the age groups it's for. Any good salesperson, even if they don't have the experience to figure it out on their own, should know what the publishers say. I know the big stores also have the space to divide them by age group with fiction, (Indigo/Chapters goes 6-8, 9-12, 13+) so they might be do that with non-fiction too.

    If I were writing non-fiction, I would look at your school board's curriculum guidelines, too, see how detailed they are being with the subjects, the types of resources they use, and the difficulty level, in each grade.

    I definitely wouldn't have one for ages 9-14. If you think about it in terms of grade level, that's grade four to nine. What they do in grade nine is quite a bit different than they are in grade four.

    Take human biology. When I was in grade four, I was just labeling all major the organs, showing where they were in the body, and understanding their most basic functions. Now they do human body systems in grade five in my province and they get a little more detailed about body systems and not just major organs. In both grades they leave out the reproductive systems. In grade eight, we didn't have a particular unit devoted to human biology, but we did learn about the basics of cellular biology, which is part of human biology. In grade nine, having learned the parts of the reproductive systems in middle school health, we got into all the details of how reproduction works.
     

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