Understanding the Flesch Reading Ease formula can help you learn if inefficient writing is costing you. Why? Because complex writing can kill your sales. It can cost you potential customers. It can hurt your website’s traffic.
The truth is, most people like to read plain English – they don’t want to read cliches or technical jargon unless absolutely necessary.
Google understands this too. Even if you sell complex products or services, you need to especially careful of mind-numbing, complicated writing.
Here are the signs:
- Using ten words to say something that could be said in three
- Using perplexing language for common ideas
- Becoming redundant in an effort to be precise
- Becoming verbose when trying to be accurate
- Sounding pretentious in an attempt to be interesting
your readers’ eyes glaze over,
or worse –
they leave your page,
delete your email
They never read your message.
Not one word.
When writing web content, blog posts or emails, plain English is a necessity. It must be easy to read, understand and use.
Table of Contents
How To Write Content People Will Actually Read
Reading ease is important no matter the subject – even when writing technical information. If you’re explaining a technical subject, use simple sentences and keep plenty of white space on the page. When possible, replace complicated words with simplified words and avoid unnecessary jargon or acronyms.
That doesn’t mean you should use simple words at the expense of being accurate. It also doesn’t mean you should delete important information just for the sake of making it easier to read. Don’t sacrifice what’s necessary for your audience.
It’s about writing for your readers. Not too complex, yet not so simplistic that it fails to answer their questions.
That’s why your content should be direct and straightforward, yet streamlined. Is there an everyday word to replace that fancy word? Can you eliminate unnecessary clauses in your sentences?
That’s where the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Tests come in. They give you an objective assessment of your content. They are the most commonly used formulas and generally considered to be the most accurate tests available.
First developed in 1948 by Rudolph Flesch, the Flesch Reading Ease test estimates the reading difficulty of any written material. In 1975, the U.S. Department of Defense wanted to evaluate the difficulty level of its technical manuals, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test was created to make it more useful for the military.
Fletch-Kincaid Readability Tests eventually became standardly used in the United States Military. In most of the United States, it is now commonly required that reading material such as insurance policies and other legal documents use plain English (8th or 9th-grade level).
Here’s how the tests calculate readability:
Flesch Reading Ease Formula
206.835 – (1.015 x Total Words / Total Sentences) – (84.6 x Total Syllables / Total Words)
Here’s how the results are interpreted:
0 to 30 – College graduate level. Very difficult.
30 to 50 – College student level. Difficult.
50 to 60 – 10th grade to 12th-grade level. Relatively difficult.
60 to 70 – 8th grade to 9th-grade level. Plain English.
70 to 80 – 7th-grade level. Relatively easy.
80 to 90 – 6th-grade level. Easy. Conversational.
90 to 100 – 5th-grade level. Very easy.
The lower the score, the more complex the writing. The higher the score, the easier it is to read. Word length and sentence length determine complexity. For example, Dr. Suess books would have a score of at least 100. Their short sentences and one syllable words create some of the easiest reading.
Generally, a score of 60-70 is considered to be the standard level for most web content.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test
Widely used in education, this test expresses results in terms of grade level. This helps when trying to estimate the best educational materials for certain groups of people, such as students.
0.39 (Total Words / Total Sentences) + 11.8 (Total Syllables / Total Words) – 15.59
The results are converted into an American school grade level – a score of 9 would be understandable by readers who have a reached a 9th grade level of education.
How Flesch Readability Impacts SEO
While we don’t know exactly how Google evaluates readability, the Flesch Reading Ease Score can help you clearly know if your text is too difficult or too easy. Reading ease impacts your SEO either directly or indirectly. Bottom line – if people leave your page because they’re bored or find it to be a waste of time, it will lower your ranking.
Tools That Measure Your Content’s Readability
The good news is you don’t need to worry about doing the math to measure your content’s readability. There are several tools that will do the job quickly and easily.
If you use Microsoft Word, you can enable readability statistics to see a snapshot of your content’s statistics. Click the File tab. Then click on Options. Select Proofing. In the area that says, When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, select the box that says, Check grammar with spelling. Finally, select Show Readability Statistics.
Once you’ve enabled this feature, Word will display your readability statistics after each spell check.
Yoast SEO Plugin
If you’re using WordPress, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to measure your content’s readability.
There are also free online readability checkers, such as this one from webpagefx. You simply enter your site’s URL, and you’ll receive a readability report for your website.
How To Improve Your Flesch Reading Ease Score
To ensure your content is readable and understandable, always keep your target audience in mind. Each audience has its own needs. What problem are you solving? What information do they need to know? This will help you evaluate what to include and how you will write it.
It’s important to stay organized and keep your paragraphs concise. Your writing should flow easily from one topic to the next. Use familiar, appropriate vocabulary. Strike a balance between overly complicated and overly simplified language. Avoid using acronyms or industry jargon.
Thoughtful page design is also important. Avoid large blocks of heavy text. Keep plenty of white space and use headings to break up each topic. Use easy to read fonts in a large enough size. Avoid using all capital letters.
Keep in mind the Flesch Reading Ease Tests have their limitations. No readability measure takes into account the subject you’re writing about. It can’t tell you if you’ve done a good job conveying the information clearly. Only a human being can tell you that. If you’ve successfully explained a technical or complicated subject, your Flesch Reading Ease score won’t necessarily reflect that you took a complex subject and made sense out of it.
Readability tools should be used as guidelines rather than rules. You also need to use some judgment.
Use the checklist below to improve the readability score of your blog posts, emails, manuals and other content.
A professional copywriter can add the human judgment that’s necessary to improve the readability of your blog posts. Let me take care of it for you. Check out my blog post writing service.