myWriterTools displays readability statistics, including Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Flesch Reading Ease, of your document. These readability statistics give you an idea on the reading level of your manuscript. Many documents are written to a higher Flesch-Kincaid grade level than their target audience.
Use myWriterTools to reduce the difficulty level (the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level) of your manuscript to match your target audience.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Flesch Reading Ease, and other statistics are displayed on the Info tab of DocScrubber. Press the Refresh Statistics button to update these statistics (it may take a while for a large document.)
Sentences per Paragraph: You normally want to keep this number as low as possible. There are many theories on the ideal number of sentences per paragraph, but five (5) seems to be a good number. However, this is an average number and the results can be meaningless depending on the content of your document. Novels with one sentence dialogs will have a very low number, while non-fiction or technical work will tend to have more sentences per paragraph. The number depends on the style of your document, though in general you should each paragraph should contain sentences relating to one thought or topic.
Characters per Word: This measures the average length of the words in your document. In general, shorter words are easier to understand than longer words. However, the length of the words you will need to use tends to vary directly with the reading level of your audience. Children's books require very short words while technical articles will almost always have much longer words due to the technical words they must reference. That doesn't excuse the author from using long words unnecessarily. Keep it short. Mahan's Sea Power average 4.7 characters/word, while Twain's Huckleberry Finn had 3.8 characters/word. Longer words will have more syllables and this increases the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level of your document.
Words per Sentence: This also should be kept to a low number. Experts (whatever that means in the field of creative writing) have varying ranges, but they tend to center around a range of 17-20 words per sentence. This is an average number that you treat as such. Even if your ideal number is in an acceptable range, your manuscript could contain extremely long sentences mixed with extremely short sentences, or be more monotonous with all sentences of the same length.
The example above shows 9.1 words/sentence--it is from a novel with a large number of short dialog sentences spoken by the characters. For comparison, Twain's Huckleberry Finn has 18.1 words/sentence, Dumas' Three Musketeers has 16.3, and Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise has 14.5. Compare that to Mahan's Sea Power which has 30 words/sentence. But if you look at the longest sentences in these works, you can find a number of sentences longer than 200 words in Huckleberry Finn. Having more words per sentence will also increase the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level score of your document.
Flesch Reading Ease Score: This rates your document on a scale of 1 - 100. The higher the number, the easier it is to read and understand the document. A score of 70 or higher is usually recommended. This score is computed by analyzing the average number of words per sentence and syllables per word. You want to have shorter sentences and shorter words.
The score is calculated using the following formula:
Score = 206.835 - (1.015 x WPS) - (84.6 x SPW)
where WPS=average words per sentence and SPW=average syllables per word. Time magazine scores in the low 50's, while the Harvard Law Review scores in the low 30's. Scores below 30 would normally require a reading level of a college graduate.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: This measures the readability based on the U.S. grade level of the reader. A Flesch-Kincaid grade level value of 9.0 means that a ninth-grader could understand the document. You normally want a score between 7 and 8, though technical works targeted at college graduates would have higher numbers. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade level is based on the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence. Again, you want shorter sentences and shorter words to achieve a lower Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is calculated using the following formula:
Flesch-Kincaid Grade level = (0.39 x WPS) + (11.8 x SPW) - 15.59
where WPS=average words per sentence and SPW=average syllables per word.
Using myWriterTools to improve your scores
Use the LightenUp feature of myWriterTools to improve your Flesch-Kincaid readability scores. Click on the
button on the Info tab of DocScrubber. You will see the following dialog that allows you to find and fix long words and sentences. Shortening these should help reduce the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score while increasing the Flesch Reading Ease score at the same time.
The tool is very easy to use. You can use the tool to reduce the length of words and sentences, then click on the Refresh Statistics button to re-analyze your document. The Flesch-Kincaid grade Level score and Flesch Reading Ease score numbers will update.
To Find and Shorten Long Words
- Move the left slider to the minimum length word you want to find. You might want to set it to a high number, run the tool to see if you find any long words, and then reset it to a lower number.
- Click on Start. The entire document will be searched for the longest words first (starting with 30-character words) and then decreasing in length until your minimum is reached.
- When long words are found, the long word will be highlighted in the document. If there are shorter synonyms in the Word synonym list, they will be displayed. You can select a suggested word or type in your own and click the Use button. You can also click on the document to make changes directly there.
- Click Next to go to the next word.
To Find and Shorten Long Sentences
- Move the right slider to the minimum length sentence you want to find. You might want to set it to a high number, run the tool to see if you find any long sentences, and then reset it to a lower number.
- Click on Start. The entire document will be searched from the top. Any sentence meeting your criteria will be highlighted.
- Click in the document and change the sentence.
- Click Next to find the next long sentence.
When you are done, click on the Refresh Statistics button. Hopefully you will see an improvement in your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.
See more information on writing in plain language on our Plain Language page.
Our other writing software program, myWordCount, also has some great tools to analyze your document's difficulty level. It can graph and highlight both sentence length, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade level for each sentence, allowing you to find the difficult sentences that are raising the score. See more information about myWordCount here.