1. dunsyre
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    dunsyre New Member

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    Readability of Your Writing.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dunsyre, Feb 26, 2010.

    I was playing around the other day with Microsoft Word 2007 (I usually write in Open Office) and decided to check the Flesch-Kincaid readability statistics of my current novel. I don't know if any of you are familiar with readability statistics, but I've found them to be quite interesting to use on student textbooks. {I'm a nerd, I know. :rolleyes:}

    However, when I checked the readability of my novel... I was quite surprised (and slightly offended by Word for saying my writing was at such a low grade level). I thought I was writing at an 8th-10th grade level, seeing as though that's my target audience. But Microsoft Word went and told me I was writing at a 4th-6th grade level. What! :confused:

    Now, readability statistics are obviously not fully accurate since they don't include things like introduction of new terms/ideas/worlds [my novel, fyi, is pure fantasy]. They are, however, somewhat good gauges of the approximate grade level. At least, that's my opinion.

    So, my question(s): Have any of you ever checked the readability of your writing? Were you surprised? What do you think about using readability statistics with your writing?

    - Liz :D
     
  2. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Good question. I would love too but am not sure how. Could you explain how to do that click by click? I keep trying but it never gives me results!

    I wouldn't be worried about what Microsoft Word says however, especially on a first draft.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have a lot of faith in those measurememts. I judge readablility by -- well -- reading.
     
  4. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Personally, I agree with Cog, too, but I'm curious about the setting. :)
     
  5. dunsyre
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    dunsyre New Member

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    I agree with you, Cogito. But, at the same time, I think readability statistics can be helpful. When, say, you get super-involved in your own story and everything is familiar to you, sometimes I think you may need a subjective tool to assess your writing. But I definitely wouldn't completely rely on it... more like just occasionally use it to play around.

    And writewizard: It apparently only works on Word 2007, but here are the instructions:

    - Go to the Start menu, and at the bottom click “Word Options”
    - Go to “proofing” and make sure that “check grammar with spelling” is checked
    - Then, check “show readability statistics”
    - After that, you just need to go to “review” and click on the “Spelling and Grammar” – at the end of the spell check it’ll display your word count, average sentences/words per paragraph, and finally the Flesch-Kincaid Readability level and % of passive sentences.

    (Hope that makes sense!)

    - Liz :D
     
  6. b.faulkner89
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    b.faulkner89 Member

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    Haha, Dam, I scored 5.3
    But on the other hand, I wrote 2 lines of complete crap and it came up at 9.5
    So, I'm feeling confident again.
     
  7. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    This interested me. I did a quick google to see what this meant, as i've never heard of it, and I'm pleased with my results. My novel is at a 4.7 grade level. I didn't want to plaque it with big words, I wrote it in simple terms and simple writing, so I see why that came out. I got what I wanted, I guess. haha The content is adult, but the language is simple. Maybe I'll use the thesarus next time and try to make my writing a bit more complex. (kidding.)
     
  8. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    My imagination. But I drop by the real world for m
    8.3 for me. High Score!

    But seriously the way I see it is that it's just like those magazine personality quizzes. Fun to do, but not meant to be taken as gospel. I'd much rather trust a real person to give me feedback, not a machine.
     
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  9. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I played with it. Every single one of my stories/novel excerpts fell in the 4-7 range. All of my academic papers and whatnot were much higher (from 14 to 18.5). Not sure how it can be 18.5? Am I reading this wrong?

    Perhaps its that it's looking for more academic structure and doesn't take into account creativity.

    If you think about it, though, most newspapers are written at a 5th grade level.

    Not sure what to think about this all. :)
     
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  10. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    If you google it and figure it out, it isn't telling you anything other than how many syllables are in the words per sentence. Therefore, something with bigger words will score higher than something with shorter words. That's really all it is. Nothing about creativity or academics. That's why your academic papers will score so much higher, though.
     
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  11. taylor.kuykendall
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    taylor.kuykendall Member

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    MsMyth, your academic papers came in at a higher grade level because it probably contains a higher level of multi-syllabic words and longer sentences. It basically is the amount of years of education that would probably be required to read it. The numbers beyond 12, of course would represent collegiate work. It's not an indicator of quality of writing, near as much as "readability". A good novel should not require a high level of readability. If the content is complex, it doesn't matter if syntax used is simple. Think of how you read academic papers--I typically have to slow down more than I would for novels/short stories, because they are written with longer sentences/"bigger" words that take a little bit longer to digest.

    My middle school teacher introduced us to this in a computer literacy class. She encouraged higher scores, which really only produced murkier writing... Time Magazine averages writing at about a 7th Grade level.

    My current novel is at an 8... It's really not intended for that age, more like a a 20-something college student. However, I feel confident that the story is well-written, and am pleased that the mathematically, the words are relatively easy to digest.

    Verbosity has it's place, but I am trying to write something that is fun and easy to read. It by no means reads simply, but it doesn't bog you down in long sentences and unnecessarily lengthy words.

    Hope this helps...
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I looked at the formula they use to calculate it, and I found a lot of problems with it. But anyways, I'm scoring in the 7-8 range with a few of my short pieces. One of my essays scored a 15.

    Just for fun I looked up the reading levels of a few authors.
    A few different pasages from Albert Camus' The Stranger yields 9-10.
    An excerpt from Aristotle's "On Interpretation" (in English) earned a 15.
    Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code got a 7.

    It seems essays and academic works do score higher. Anyways, it's a fun tool, but it's nothing to take seriously IMO.

    Edit: By the way, I used an online tool to calculate the score and not the tool found in Word. Don't know if that makes a difference.
     
  13. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I just threw a bunch of short stories (that I found online) into Word 2007 and tried it out:

    Raymond Carver: "A Small Good Thing" scored a 3.2
    Chekhov: "Gusev" scored a 5.0
    Hemingway: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place 3.2
    Ray Bradbury: The Veldt: 2.5
    James Joyce: Araby 5.1
    James Joyce: The Dead 6.1
    Poe: The Cask of Amontillado 4.3

    I think this puts things into perspective. :)
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Academic papers need not score so high, though. Many academic papers are unnecessarily opaque, with massively compound sentences, pretentious word choices, and overuse of passive voice.
     
  15. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I'm surprised that Brown's DaVinci Code got a 7. I'd put him at a 1. :) Where did you find that? I just copy pasted material into Word and ran it through the grammar/spell-check (changing nothing).
     
  16. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I dunno. The papers I put in all had less than 2% passive voice. Maybe it's just looking for something I cannot articulate. Either way, I don't think it jives with a creative voice. =)
     
  17. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Wow, I put the first chapter of The Lost Symbol in Word 2007 and it gave it a 6.5?

    Maybe they look at word size? Syllable count? I think Dan Brown is one of the most infantile writers on the planet. Hahaha.

    The world's gone upside down.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I just sampled a few of my papers submitted for college, and their Flesch-Kincaid level was pretty consistently between 10 and 11. A few random samples of my stories were in the 5-6 range.
     
  19. Dermit
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    Dermit Member

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    Low scores are good scores as far as I'm concerned. I want my writing to be as readable as possible...I mean, that's the point, isn't it? If my audience has to reach for a dictionary every other sentence, I'm doing something very wrong.
     
  20. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I ran a short story through it and I recieved a 3.5 with a 85.8 Ease. Oh and 1% passive voice.

    Sorta seems odd considering the content of the story itself.
     
  21. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    Eh, I'm sort of the opposite. I like challenging writing and don't mind reaching for a dictionary (I actually look forward to it). I don't want to breeze through a novel, I want to slow down and pay attention to what the author's done with words. No doubt this is why my fav. novel is Suttree. My take is that simple writing is often boring writing.

    My stories generally runs in the nines.
     
  22. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I didn't know Word 2007 did that (but then, I don't have a copy) ... I've used the Flesch formula in the past which works in a similar way... I have a tool online where you can get the approximate reading age of a text (based on the Flesch formula) and some other stats.

    The thinking is that longer sentences (the length is in syllables, not words) are more complicated for your brain to process, so have a higher reading age. The formulas are a useful guide, but only a guide and no substitute for trying the text out on real readers.

    The first chapter of my current project (which is a young adult fantasy/adventure) gave me:
    "I counted 280 sentences, and estimated that there were 4010 syllables.

    There were 1004 different words used, and 3219 words in total.

    There were 18115 characters. Of these, 3517 were spaces, 7 were numerical digits, 1 were accented and 13897 were plain alphabetic.
    The Flesch Formula score was 92, suggesting a reading age of up to 10 years and a text difficulty of Very Easy."
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. Clarity is king. Which is ironic when you read King -- never mind.

    Actually, it's not about how often you reach for a dictionary. Most high-score writing is murky because of long, aimlessl sentences and an addiction to overblown modifiers.

    I know my vocabulary is extensive. I don't have to prove it to anyone. So I use it to try to choose the best possible word for the situation rather than the five most impressive words.
     
  24. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of the reading scale programs or charts incorporate word length and sentence length and paragraph length.

    Consider how dialogue would affect (or skew) the results.

    As a frame of reference, most newspapers are written at the 6th to 8th level, and if I recall the Wall Street Journal usually is considered 9th grade or so.

    Terry
     
  25. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    So, you're saying it's gonna love some Henry James? Ahh! Look at that. The Jolly Corner received a 9.2

    go figure. :)
     

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