Susan Weinschenk, aka The Brain Lady, brings up readability. Does your Atheist Nexus blog expect readers to have a college degree? An online tool to assess the Reading Score for your sample text is at Readability Index Calculator.

100 Things You Should Know About People: #54 — The Average Reading ...

The most common formula for calculating the readability of a particular passage of text is the Flesch-Kincaid method. The method gives you a Reading Ease formula and also a reading grade level score.

The formula to calculate how readable your text is:

Reading Score Formula

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Score Formula

The higher the score the easier the passage is to read. Low scores mean the passage is hard to read.

For the reading ease score, higher is better. Comic books are at 90, and legal documents are often 10 and under.

So if your text is higher than 8 on readability, you expect an above average audience.

My sample, the introduction to Hang With Friends, got

Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 11.
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 44.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade level indicates the grade a person will have to have reached to be able to understand the text. E.g. a grade level of 7 means that a seventh grader will be able to understand the text.

Therefore I unconsciously expected Hang With Friends folk to have at least an 11th grade education. Reading ease seemed to be in the middle, which is probably OK.

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Replies to This Discussion

I just run the Flesch-Kincaid using my Word program - it also counts all the words and the reading level.

Oh and I don't write like I do for class on the site. In my Internet class we talked about how writing for a website is far different than writing an essay for class.

When writing for the web, use

shorter sentences, words and paragraphs
one idea per paragraph
concise text - half the word count (or less) than writing for print
the inverted pyramid style, putting the most important point or the conclusion first.
simple words
objective language to build credibility, rather than exaggerated claims or overly promotional words like "great", "tremendous" etc.
bulleted lists
highlighted text (bold or color, also hyperlinked text) for scannability
meaningful headlines and subheads, avoiding cute or clever lines

Great tips, thanks Steph. I had no idea that people read 25% slower on the web. It's true that I do more scanning than when I read a book. But my habit of scanning online has transferred to reading magazines now. I only read the most interesting articles word for word.

I'm thinking that these differences impact scholarly papers that people share online. If people critique an academic paper online they'll read it 25% slower and "want" sentences 50% shorter, plus only one idea per paragraph, plus have the most important point up front. All features for which an academic review board would, you'd think, deselect. Wouldn't any online journal necessarily be a dumbed down version of the equivalent treeware journal? How does an academic writer who posts online meet the need for


  • 10 seconds to grab attention with your web site content
  • 55 seconds to develop an understanding of your company or product

You have given me much on which to chew.

I haven't blogged here yet, though I am thinking of starting today. I write all the time; in fact, I have my own blog as well as a couple of free lance writing gigs.

I think anyone with an 8th grade reading level SHOULD be able to read it, but I do have a rather large vocabulary.

That's so cool Shannon! Do you have a link to you blog?

your blog -- sorry

I use up a lot of paper and ink cartidges [shrugs].  I see a lot of interesting articles that I want to read, but I've had vision problems all my life (I need new glasses, but Medicare doesn't pay for vision care), so I just print things and read them in comfort.

But thanks for the info! Now I know why Yahoo "news" articles are so short and simple(minded).

Excellent tool Ruth, thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Tammy! The lesbian one is obviously a snark/humor blog aimed at dykes LOL. IDK how much you will get out of that. The US politics one though? That is a liberal site. Should be very informative for all.

Thank you Steph for the links also and Shannon I bookmarked ya!


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