Why Should You Care about the Readability Score of your Content?

Readability Score and its Importance in Writing

The online world is ever-changing. Heaps of new content are uploaded every second. Besides, search engines’ algorithms to rank them is also changing.

There are some written rules relating to SEO that can help your website/blog rank higher. But again, there are many unwritten rules too that affect the rankings of your web pages. Keeping an eye on these factors may help your content achieve better quality. As an indirect result, your blog or website will get better rankings in SERPs.

One such crucial factor is Content Readability. Let’s discuss in detail in this article.

What do we understand by Readability?

In the simplest of words, Readability refers to the quality of your writing. It denotes how easy it is to read and understand a piece of content.

What is a Readability Score?

Now, you already know about readable content.

But what may be easy to understand for a lawyer, may not be the same for a high school student. Something that’s readable for a doctor, may appear gibberish to even a college graduate.

Got my point here? Readability levels are subjective, as per different classes of the audience and setting. This is where Readability Score steps in!

A good readability score means the text is easier to comprehend for the masses. Readability formulas turn the factor of readability into a math equation. This is for the benefit of anyone who wants to check how readable their content is, before publishing. You can calculate the Readability score for both online and for offline content.

The formulas take into account various factors. For example, factors like words per sentence (sentence length), number of words in a paragraph and in total, the total number of sentences, use of polysyllabic words, syllables per word, number of complex words, etc. are used to calculate the score.

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease:

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease or Flesch Reading Ease calculates the approximate reading level of your content. Flesch Readability Score monitors average sentence length and average syllables per word to conclude how easy a text is. A higher score means the text is easier to read and understand.

How to calculate Flesch Reading Ease Score?

The formula to calculate Flesch Readability Score:

206.835 — (1.015 x Average Sentence Length) — (84.6 x Average Syllables Per Word).

Now, there must be a few questions crossing your mind:

What’s an ideal readability score?

Is there a perfect score we need to target for our web copies?

Why would an educated person want to read a text written on a level of 6th graders?

What readability score is the best for my next blog article?

To answer these, there is no fixed number! And there are valid reasons you should keep your copy fairly easy for all.

On the Flesch Readability scale, a score of 0–30 is the toughest, and means the text is suitable for university level. A score of 60–70 is plain English and easy to read for the average audience and is suitable for online content. You should aim at a score of over 60 for your website and blog content; the higher, the better! 100 or more means it is very easy and written in the simplest of ways. This table helps to understand the scores better:

Img credits: Elegant Themes

But the affinity for a great readability score shouldn’t make you dumb down your content! Write simple content. Help people understand complex ideas and terms. But don’t write in a manner/tone that the kindergarten students start laughing at.

This article will tell you about the various readability scores. Know how to make your content readable, and why to aim for a good score.

A good read: How to write an SEO-friendly blog article.

Grade Level Indicators

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level:

The Flesch Kincaid Grade Level measures how tough to read is a copy from the perspective of a US reader. In short, it tells how many years of schooling is required to understand a certain text copy.

The scores range from zero to 12, 12 being the toughest. So, an FC grade level score of 8 means an eighth grader, around 13–14 years of age, would be able to understand the text. A grade level of 7–8 is what most copywriters should target as a large percentage of readers in the US understand and prefer this level of writing.

Here is how we calculate the FC grade level score:

FC Grade level = (0.39 x words per sentence) + (11.8 x average syllables per word) — 15.59.

Img credits: Readable blog.

Negative scores are treated as zero, while scores over 12 are taken as 12.

Let’s see how the following sentences perform on the FC Reading Ease scale and FC Grade Level:

Hello there buddy. How are you doing?

FK Reading Ease — 94.5

FK Grade Level — 0.9

Easily understandable by 7–8-year-olds.

Hello there my beloved buddy. How have you been?

FC Reading Ease — 89.5

FC Grade Level — 1.9

8–9-year-olds can understand easily.

Hello there my revered companion. How is life treating you nowadays?

FC Reading Ease — 62.8

FC Grade Level — 5.9

Understandable by 13–14-year-olds.

Do you see how the reading ease decreases as we keep on adding more (complex) words and increasing the paragraph length? It works the same way with other grade level indicators too.

Understand what various Grade Level Indicators mean:

Gunning Fog Score: The Gunning Fog Index measures the readability by analyzing the complex words. “Complex words” are monosyllabic words that have three or more syllables. Proper nouns, jargon, and compound words also affect the score.

Gunning Fog Score = 0.4 X {(words / sentences + 100 X (complex words / total words)}.

Gunning Fog Score starts from 1 and has no upper limit. An ideal score is 7–8.

Coleman Liau Index: Coleman Liau Index checks characters per word and words per sentence to provide a readability score. The range for this index is 1 to 12. 7–8 is an ideal score on this scale.

Coleman Liau Index = 5.89 X characters / words — 0.3 X sentences / words — 15.8.

SMOG Index: This measure is widely used in healthcare readability testing. SMOG Index looks for syllables from parts of the complete text. It takes 10 sentences each from the beginning, middle, and end of the document to calculate the grade level.

SMOG Index = 1.0430 X square root of (30 X complex words / sentences) + 3.1291.

Automated Readability Index: Automated Readability Index (ARI) is calculated by using two variables — characters per word and words per sentence. It corresponds to the US grade level. Any value in decimal needs to be rounded off to the next whole number.

ARI = 4.71 X (characters / words) + 0.5 X (words / sentences) — 21.43.

Benefits of a Good Readability Score

Consider this — Google may or may not be ranking your content based on its readability. But, it sure takes into account the time a visitor stays on your page.

If your content is tough to read, visitors will navigate away from your site.

The time on site will be low.

Bounce rate will shoot up.

None of these is a positive sign. Your website will fail to perform!

On the other hand, if your content is easily readable, readers will stay on your page for longer durations. They might even check out other pages on your site. This will have a significant impact on your website reputation and organic rankings. Traffic to your site will gradually increase!

Always make sure your target audience understands your text easily.

Keep providing quality content and you will build a brand for yourself.

How to Improve Readability Score of your Web Copy / Blog?

Here are some steps you may take to enhance the readability of your content:

  1. Keep sentences shorter — Try to keep your sentences as short as possible. Keep the maximum sentence length to 20 words. Divide one large sentence into multiple small sentences. It makes the text easy to read and process and has a direct impact on the readability score.
  2. Use fewer complex (monosyllabic) words — Using too many words that contain multiple syllables makes it tough to read the content. Having more such words hampers your readability score.
  3. Use transition words — Transition words like “so”, “thus”, “and”, “because”, “therefore”, etc. help establish a flow in your writing. They hint the readers into what’s coming next. Also, make sure you use different words to start different sentences. Starting multiple sentences with the same words negatively impacts readability.
  4. Avoid long paragraphs — There is no harm in finishing up and starting a new paragraph after every few sentences. Break up paragraphs, use bullet points, insert sub-headings. This makes the text visually appealing and easily understandable.
  5. Use active voice — Passive voice makes a piece of text appear unclear and skewed. Sentences need extra effort to be understood. Why make life tough when you can convey the same message in simple a sentence using active voice?
  6. Don’t try to be overly impressive — Do not try to woo your readers with your impeccable vocabulary. It is a trap most writers fall into. Try to use words that people will understand. There is no point impressing them when they will not understand your point and will ultimately move away to other sources to get the information they were looking for.

Bonus Tip: Increase website traffic by over 200% by using these simple tricks to build quality backlinks

We have talked a lot about various readability tests and the readability formulas. But calculating the readability score manually is a tiresome task. Thankfully, there are several tools that make our lives easier. These tools do all the hard work to provide us with the readability scores we want.

Here are the top 4 readability tools that will help improve your copywriting:

  1. WebFX: WebFX allows you to check the readability of your text in addition to providing numerous other digital marketing services. You can obtain Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning Fog Index, SMOG Index, Coleman-Liau Index, and Automated readability Index with its help. It helps you to check the readability ease of a copy either directly from the URL, or by pasting the entire text.
  2. Readable: Readable.io offers a number of readability checks that include FK Grade Level, Gunning Fog Index, Coleman-Liau Index, SMOG Index, and Automated Readability Index. The tool also provides other insightful information into the usage of words, parts of speech, and keyword density in your text.
  3. Hemingway editor: Hemingway editor is a useful tool that can help make your writing much easier for the readers. It helps detect complex words and sentences. Replace them with easier and shorter ones. It will detect the use of passive voice in your text. Change those sentences into active voice for better scores.
  4. Yoast: Yoast plugin for WordPress helps WordPress site owners with checking their Flesch Reading Ease score on the go. It tells if a part of the text is difficult to read so that it can be changed for easy understanding. Here are some guidelines on Yoast Readability.

Originally published at writersmentor.com on February 28, 2019.

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A B2B Content Writer with hands-on experience in various niches. Skilled in writing blog content, website content, SEO content & various marketing collaterals.

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Abhishek Upadhyay

Abhishek Upadhyay

A B2B Content Writer with hands-on experience in various niches. Skilled in writing blog content, website content, SEO content & various marketing collaterals.

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