Writing tools

Readability analysis for writers

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As writers, we're working for the reader. Not your boss and not yourself. This is why readability metrics can be helpful. They are a tool to both get past your ego and management pressure to write badly.

They compare your copy mathematically against other known texts to give you feedback on its complexity and who might be able to read it. Typically, readability scores are given as a percentage or an education grade level. For example, here's the formula for the Automated Readability Index which outputs a grade level.

Readability formula

The point is that all these systems don't actually parse your text - they measure syllables, characters, words and sentences.

Readers are increasingly impatient and overloaded with copy so even if you're writing for a well-educated and literate audience, it makes sense to write copy that is intelligible to a wider range of people. Busy, smart people will thank you for making it easier to absorb what you are saying.

better business writing

Here are some useful readability tools:

To edit text that produces bad readability scores, see 10 ways to slim down obese copy.

Make a readability check part of your proofreading process and watch the quality of your output improve. You can also use it to fight off managers who want you to write in a 'professional' (ie waffly, hyped-up) way that is actually harder to read and often gets ignored.

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing.