Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading Ease

A couple of weeks ago, I learned about something cool – Reading Ease.

Apparently, the top best-selling writers average better in several statistics than other writers. They use shorter sentences, shorter words, and a higher percentage of active voice. The analysis of this factors is what Jim Smith (Writer’s Little Helper) calls the Reading Ease Ideal.

This check can be done in Microsoft Word and according to Mr. Smith, the following numbers are the benchmark.

Words per sentence (avg): 15 max
Characters per word (avg): 4.5 max
Passive voice: 5% max
Flesch Reading Ease: 80% max
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 6 max

He suggests editing a scene at a time to achieve or surpass the above goals. He goes into more detail about how to use these numbers effectively, but this provides a good start.

How do you find these numbers? I have Word 2007. I can tell you where to go in this program. If you have a different version, go to help and type in “Flesch reading ease” and the directions should pop up.

Click on the Microsoft symbol button in the top left corner. At the very bottom of the menu that pops up is a Word Options button. Click that. On the left-hand menu, choose Proofing. In the menu that comes up in the right pane, the third group of options has a box for Show Readability Statistics. Check that and hit OK. Now the next time you run your spell check, these statistics will be displayed. Cool, right?

For fun, I ran the first chapter of Into the Pride through it. This is what it came up with:

Words per sentence (avg): 9.7
Characters per word (avg): 4.3
Passive voice: 0%
Flesch Reading Ease: 84.3%
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 3.9

Not too shabby, eh? That’s the rough first draft. So, if I edit it until the reading ease score hits 80% or below and keep the other numbers about the same, I’ve got a possible best-seller. Woohoo!

Seriously, though, it’s an interesting tool to use to help during your editing process.

For the record, the stats for this post are:

Words per sentence (avg): 10.8
Characters per word (avg): 4.3
Passive voice: 3%
Flesch Reading Ease: 77.1%
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 5.1

Have you used this tool? Are you going to? Hit me with some numbers.


Skhye said...

HI, Angie. My first novel with WRP was at grade level 5.1 using Grammatica. :( It was supposed to be a 3 (4 tops). So, I highly recommend everyone checking into the reading level of their work! An agent told me my grammar was too complex. Yep. That's what reading ease is all about. LOL. I do try not to write that way these days... So, if anyone has access to Grammatica, try crunching a chapter or scene too! ;)


Gale Stanley said...

I've been using this since a critique partner suggested it and it's been very helpful. Less is more.

Carly Carson said...

It is a great tool. Of course it took me a good hour to figure out the spell check thing. Maybe I'm still not doing it right but I get my little report. Happily, I've been in the green so far.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Angie,
What fascianting information.Thank you. I am going to check it out.



RL said...

Cool! Gonna check it out: I'll let you know :)

alanarose said...

I have a program "Right Writer" that I run all of my work through, it catches passive voice, and all the other measurements for ease of reading. I love it. It's great when it all just becomes your natural voice and you don't have to think about the details.

Rachel Firasek

Anonymous said...

im working on an essay to go to college and my statistics are:
words per sentence: 24.0
characters per word: 4.4
sentence per paragraph: 4.2

passive sentence: 0%
flesch reading ease: 64.8
flesch-kincaid grade level: 9.6

is it good? cus i dnt really get it

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