How readable is your blog post?

cactus reading

Now here’s the type of reader you don’t see every day…. Image courtesy of svklimkin, Morguefile.

Ever heard of the Flesch-Kincaid test? Or the Gunning Fog Index? Yep…….me neither. At least until I took my Aussie course in writing for the Web.

Both of these tests measure the readability of your writing to an audience. The history behind both tests is interesting. Robert Gunning, an American businessman and textbook publisher, developed the Gunning Fog Index in 1952. This mathematical formula measures the years of education someone would need to understand the text the first time he or she reads it. The “Fog” part relates to how confused people get when they read your writing.

The lower the score you have, the better. A score of 12 equals a high-school senior, while a score of 8 or 9 is an eighth-grade student or a high school freshmen.

Rudolph Flesch was an Austrian immigrant who was a writer and an expert in readability and writing. He developed a specialized reading ease test to measure how easy a writing sample was to read. He was also the co-creator of the Flesch-Kincaid readability test in 1975 with J. Peter Kincaid, a scientist and educator who created the test for the U.S. Navy.

Microsoft included Flesch reading ease and Flesch-Kincaid test results in Microsoft Word. (I recommend you search on Google to find out how to get the readability statistics on your version of MS Word). I see both when I do a spell-check on my text.

With the Flesch reading ease test, the desired score is 100%. For the Flesch-Kincaid score, you want a minimum of 60 to 70 (the average reader level). The top score is 100%. (Sorry, they don’t grade on the curve.)

Just for fun, I ran some paragraphs from three of my previous blog posts through the Gunning Fog Index. I was surprised to find that one post scored a 13 (college freshman) while others scored a 9 and a 10. The Gunning Fog Index is a fun tool if you want to see the grade level at which you’re writing.

For personal blogging, which tends to be stream of consciousness, you may not care. But if you have it in mind to create a blog or write an article for a particular target audience, these three tests come in handy to see if you’re writing at a level that is easy for your readers to understand.




Filed under Writing

17 responses to “How readable is your blog post?

  1. S.L: Fascinating article. Imagine submitting passages from Dickens, Hardy, Shakespeare, and other great writers. It would suggest that you need a doctorate to understand great literature. Ironically, Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings, and today, many students do not encounter Shakespeare until college. My kingdom for literacy! Cheers, Alex.

  2. That was interesting. A 200-word section of my last post came out to 11.80. Then I did it again with a second section (hoping it would go down) and it went up to 13.99. Three syllable+ words seem to play a big part in how high the score goes. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love your last paragraph!
    (Textbook companies obsess over readability….gnashing of teeth)

  4. Sounds like a recipe for dumbing down a blog. If I were writing professionally for a target audience, I would have to deal with this, but this is the first time in my writing life I’ve been free to write without worrying about a boss, my editor, or even my audience. I’m finally free to use big words!

  5. Woo! I write at a seventh grade level! I’m speaking to the masses, babee!

  6. I’ve written about these twice on my blog. I’ve scored an average of 7. I don’t think it’s a recipe for dumbing down, actually. I think it serves to tell us where we are. What we chose to do still depends on us.

    Strangely, despite the high ( or low ) ease of use of my blog, I still get people saying I’m too difficult to read.

    This is the latest post where I reference these tests.

  7. And in this one I ranted about the dumbing down issue…the expectation that you should dumb down. I’m against it. I think writers should write in a style that suits them.

  8. I ran an upcoming blog post through the Gunning Fog Index one paragraph at a time. Unmodified, it ranged from 9.86 to 23.48! That might explain things… For that one, I tweaked it to to see if it will change anything, although I think the subject is more interesting than most that I share. If I really wanted to rack up the “likes” I would stick to pictures and poetry.


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