Wikipedia defines readability as “the ease with which a reader can understand a written text.” The easier a text is to read, the faster you will read it. The more you understand, the more you will remember. And if it’s easy to read, there’s a far greater chance you will read the whole document.
For content marketers, there’s also a far greater chance people will find your content online. Google has publicly stated that readability is one of the factors in its ranking algorithm.
So how do you know if the text you’ve produced is clear and easy to read? It would be great if we had a reliable panel of judges inside our heads that could accurately score our work. Unfortunately, it turns out our inner compass is mostly askew. Many writers underestimate the difficulties a piece of text presents to the ordinary reader – sometimes significantly. Why?
Good writers are often excellent readers. They often do not realize how difficult their writing is for others to read. Or, how much their own knowledge base simplifies comprehension of a complex subject.
With practice, you can increase your accuracy in predicting the readability of your documents. But there is another way to get a more objective measurement of readability: readability formulas. The Flesch Reading Ease scale, developed by Rudolf Flesch, is one of the most commonly used readability measures. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score, which came later, is also widely used. These formulas use two main factors to predict the difficulty of the text:
• How simple or complex the vocabulary is
• The length of the sentences.
Just remember: while these tools are quite accurate in measuring what they measure, they don’t consider other elements that can affect the readability, such as organization, design and relevance of the content. That means they can’t replace a good writer or editor. At least, not yet.
By the way, this article has a reading ease score of 57.6 and a grade level of 8.4. The goal? Try to keep your reading ease score between 50 and 70 and your grade level around eighth grade when writing for public readers.