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.