How I test readability

The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score indicates how easy a text is to read. Click graph for larger view.

I use the Flesch-Kinkaid Readability Index. It measures the length of the sentences and the number of syllables per word, resulting in a school grade score.

A recent client told me their message wasn't getting across; I put some paragraphs from their Web site into the Index and it came out 26th grade: you needed three PhD's to comprehend their text.

If you want it said simply enough so that your customers can understand it, I'm your man.

How to measure your readability:
1. Select the text of your page
2. Go to the Readability Index Calculator
3. Paste in your text
4. Read your scores
5. See where you rank on the Readability Index

Newspaper articles are written to a lowest common denominator of simplicity, but the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are written to a more exacting standard, and so they are written to the reading comprehension level of a 10th grader.

Readability has nothing to do with the complexity or seriousness of the subject. It's not a matter of "dumbing down" the text. It's about clarity and plain, straightforward language that's easy to understand. Albert Einstein's RELATIVITY: The Special and the General Theory is far more readable than most corporate sites today.

Marketing text is frequently written at an excruciating level of difficulty because the clients think it makes them seem lofty and important. They're proud that only people with three PhD's can understand their message. But that is a very limited demographic.


A high Reading Ease score implies an easy text. Comic books typically score around 90 while legalese can get a score below 10.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
indicates the grade a person will have to have reached to be able to understand the text. A grade level of 9 means that a ninth grader will be able to understand the text.