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The Beginner’s Guide to Flesch Reading Ease Scores

When creating documents using Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you want to be certain your audience is receiving the information you want to convey. However, if you’re using overly complex words and sentence structures, you may find that your audience misses the point entirely.

To help you determine whether your text remains readable for the average person, you can use something called a readability score index. This provides an estimation of the minimum educational level your audience should have to understand your text.

One of the formulas for creating a readability score is the Flesch Reading Ease score formula. We’ll help you figure out everything you need to know to make the most of this formula for creating text that your audience can decipher easily.

What Is the Flesch Reading Ease Score?

To create a readability score, software will apply a formula to your text, measuring sentence structure, word complexity, and the number of syllables you’re using. The software creates a score, showing you the minimum education level your audience should have to comprehend the text easily.

The Flesch Reading Ease score is one of several readability formulas you may encounter, although Flesch Reading Ease is one of the most popular.

Rudolf Flesch created the Flesch Reading Ease score in the 1940s, mainly attempting to help newspapers determine whether they were meeting the needs of their audiences with their articles.

The score still has plenty of usefulness today. For example, the state of Florida requires that insurance policies maintain a certain Flesch score, ensuring that customers will be able to comprehend the language.

When creating text for a website or an advertisement, you will want the audience to easily comprehend your message, giving it the best chance of being successful. You can apply your text to the Flesch formula, determining whether you need to edit it to make it easier to read.

How to Calculate the Flesch Reading Ease Score

To calculate the Flesch score, you can perform the calculation by hand yourself, or you can rely on software to determine it for you. The formula compares the total sentences in the text to the total words. It also compares the total number of syllables to the total number of words.

The majority of people will choose to have software calculate the score for them, as counting all of the syllables in a long text could take hours. Multiple web apps can calculate the score for you.

Calculating Your Score Manually

If you want to calculate the score manually on your own, use the following steps.

1. Count the Total Syllables, Words, and Sentences
You’ll need to know the number of words, sentences, and syllables in your text. You then can apply these numbers to the formula for calculating the Flesch Reading Ease score.

2. Divide Words by Sentences
For the first calculation, divide the total number of words in the text by the total number of sentences. Then multiply the answer by 1.015. (You can round the answer to the nearest 0.001.)

3. Divide Syllables by Words
Next, divide the total number of syllables by the total number of words in the text. Multiply the answer by 84.6.

4. Final Calculation
To come up with the score, subtract the number you calculated in step 2 from 206.835. With that answer in hand, subtract the number you calculated in step 3 from it.

This represents the final number that you’ll apply to the Flesch score chart (which we’ll outline in the next section).

What’s a Good Score?

Determining a good score after applying the Flesch Reading Ease formula on your text really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the text.

The formula gives your text a score on a scale up to 121. Extremely complex texts could have a negative score. Lower and negative scores represent a text with more complexity. Typically, though, most texts will fit within a range of 10 to 100. A score between 60 and 70 would be average.

If you’re designing a text for a specific audience that has a high level of education, you may aim for a lower than average score. For an average audience, though, a low score may leave the audience unable to understand the context.

Flesch Reading Ease Score Chart

The definitions for the Flesch Reading Ease scores include:

  • 90-100: 5th grade reading level
  • 80-90: 6th grade reading level
  • 70-80: 7th grade reading level
  • 60-70: 8th and 9th grade reading level
  • 50-60: High school reading level
  • 30-50: College student reading level
  • 10-30: College graduate reading level
  • 10 or lower: Professional or reader with an advanced university degree

Is the Flesch Reading Ease Score in Google Docs or Microsoft Word?

When using Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create a text document, you may want to know the readability score for your document. Word includes the ability to calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score as part of the app. With Google Docs, however, you would have to copy the text into a web app that calculates the score for you for free.

Using Microsoft Word for Flesch Reading Ease Score

With Word, you will need to activate the readability score formula tracker within the spell check and grammar check feature. Follow these steps to calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score in Word each time you run spell check. (If Word already shows your readability scores after you run a spell check, you don’t need to do these steps.)

Click on the File menu in Word, followed by Options. Click Proofing along the right side of the screen. Scroll down to the When Correcting Spelling and Grammar in Word section. Place a checkmark in the Check Grammar, Check Spelling, and Mark Grammar check boxes. Word cannot calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score unless you are checking for grammar and spelling errors in your document.

Finally, add a checkmark next to Show Readability Statistics. Click OK to save your selections.

Run spell check on your Word document by clicking the Home menu followed by Editor. Work through each error that appears in the pane on the right side of the screen. You will not be able to see the readability score until you correct all of the errors that Word detects.

Once you have ignored or corrected all of the spelling and grammar errors, Word will create a popup window in the middle of the screen that shows the Flesch Reading Ease score. You’ll also see the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level readability score, along with other statistics about the document, including the number of passive sentences.

Determining the Flesch Reading Ease Score With Google Docs

Although Google Docs included a native feature for calculating readability scores at one time, it no longer has this feature. Instead, to calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score for free, you’ll need to copy the text from the Google Docs document and paste it into a web app that calculates the score for you.

Three of the best free options include the following.

  • Online Utility: Copy the text from your Google Docs document. Then open the Online Utility web tool in a web browser. Paste the text in the large blank text box and click the Process Text button. The tool will give you a number of readability scores, including Flesch Reading Ease near the bottom of the list. Additionally, the web tool will provide suggestions of ways to improve your score.
  • Readability Analyzer: Copy all of the text and open the Readability Analyzer web tool in a browser tab. At the upper left of the web page, paste the text into the blank box. Then click the Analyze button. The right side of the page will show various readability scores, including the Flesch Reading Ease score.
  • WebFX Readability Text Tool: Copy the URL address for your Google Docs file. Open the WebFX Readability Text Tool in a browser tab. Paste the URL address into the Test by URL text box. Click on the Calculate Readability button to create several readability scores, including the Flesch Reading Ease score. You may have to scroll down in the window to see the score.

Readability Score Alternatives

Although you certainly can use the Flesch Reading Ease formula to help you determine whether your text is hitting the audience at which you are aiming, you may want to run your text through other readability score formulas too.

Using multiple formulas may give you slightly different results. You could use an average of all of the readability scores to create a more accurate picture of the complexity of your text. Some of the other readability score formula options you could choose to use include the following.

Coleman Liau

The Coleman Liau readability score relies more on the number of characters in the text, rather than on the number of syllables. The formula’s final score ends up equating to a reading grade level. A score of around 8 would be roughly equal to an eighth-grade reading level.

Dale-Chall Score

The Dale-Chall readability score formula uses a list of easily understood words and compares the number of those words in the text to the number of the words in the text not on the list.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

With the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level readability score, the formula develops a final number that is equal to the projected reading grade level for the text. A score of 9 would be equal to a ninth-grade reading level, for example, which makes this readability score formula extremely easy to understand.

Microsoft Word includes the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score as part of its standard readability scores, along with Flesch Reading Ease.

Gunning Fog

The Gunning Fog readability formula determines the number of words in the text that consist of three or more syllables (with exceptions for proper nouns and compound words), calling these complex words. It then compares the number of complex words to the total number of words, as well as comparing the number of words per sentence in the text to come up with a score.

The Gunning Fog final score roughly translates to a reading grade level. A score of about 10 would translate to the reading level of a high school sophomore, for example.

SMOG

With the SMOG readability formula, you’ll use the number of words with three or more syllables and the total number of sentences in the text to determine an estimated reading grade level. The final answer in the formula should equate to a reading grade level. A score of 7 would translate to roughly a seventh-grade reading level, for example.

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