Reading age and readability
The See a Voice website has some excellent guidance on how to judge how ‘readable’ your document is, as well as some helpful stats on average reading age in the UK.
The average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9 year old.
The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8.
They’ve also got some excellent examples of how to make text more readable, both in terms of language and in terms of layout. Their layout advice is as follows:
- Use bold to take the reader to key words.
- Use meaningful subheadings (explain what’s in it for them).
- Bullet points to summarise content.
- Break up your copy into readable bite-sized chunks.
- One idea per paragraph.
They also produced an excellent downloadable guide on how to check a document’s readability, here: A guide to checking copy readability.
From both this guide and the Enable readability statistics guide from Word 2010, I’ve put together a quick guide of how to get usable reading statistics from a word document.
In a Word Document…
- Click the File tab, and then click Options.
- Click Proofing.
- Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
- Select Show readability statistics.
After you enable this feature, open a file that you want to check, and check the spelling. When Outlook or Word finishes checking the spelling and grammar, it displays information about the reading level of the document.
- The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level figure is equivalent to a school year so, to get the reading age, add five (because children in Year One are usually aged five).
- Note that in older versions of Word, the scale only goes up to 12, the final year of secondary school.
- The formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is:
- (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59
- ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences)
- ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)
There’s also further useful reading on the difference between readability and reading ages by the Literacy Trust, here: