One of the factors that determine how effective is your writing lies in how easy it is for others to understand what you have written. That’s essentially what most copywriters do, right? They take something that’s complicated and find ways to use words and phrases to simplify it, so that the target audience can relate better to it.
If you recall a difficult text you’ve read in the past, probably during your university days, where you need to re-read a sentence or paragraph again and again, just to understand the content. That piece probably had a very low readability score. Conversely, remember that novel that you just finished reading in a sitting? It probably was written with a high readability score.
HOW ARE READABILITY MEASURED?
One of the common ways for readability to be measured, is by using the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score. The definition from Wikipedia:
The Flesch–Kincaid readability tests are readability tests designed to indicate how difficult a passage in English is to understand. There are two tests, the Flesch Reading Ease, and the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level. Although they use the same core measures (word length and sentence length), they have different weighting factors.
The results of the two tests correlate approximately inversely: a text with a comparatively high score on the Reading Ease test should have a lower score on the Grade-Level test. Rudolf Flesch devised the Reading Ease evaluation; somewhat later, he and J. Peter Kincaid developed the Grade Level evaluation for the United States Navy.
In other words, when it comes to the Flesh Reading Ease, the higher you score, the better it is. When it comes to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, the lower the number, the better you are doing.
But enough talk. Let’s look at a (free) tool where you can gauge your copy and writing in general. Later, we will also look at the tool buried deep within your software you probably had been using for a long while – Microsoft Word.
TOOL 1 – READABILITY TEST TOOL BY WEBPAGEFX
- Head over to this site.
- You will have three options here – TEST BY URL, TEST BY DIRECT INPUT and TEST BY REFERER.
- If you select the first option, you can just input the URL of your website or blog post.
- However, if you have your content written down somewhere, use the second option, TEST BY DIRECT INPUT, where you can just copy and paste your content into a box.
- Click on CALCULATE READABILITY once you’ve pasted your content in the box.
LET’S LOOK AT THE RESULTS
This result is based on one of the email copies I’ve written a while ago. If you want to have a look at it, click here.
I scored 69.8 for the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease, which is generally ok. Of course, there are still areas I can improve. 🙂 Remember, the higher this score is, the better. Here’s a little table from the same Wikipedia page:
I scored 7.4 for the Flesh Kincaid Grade Level, which meant my content can be read and understood by someone who’s in 8th grade (someone who’s 13 to 14 years old).
There are a couple of other interesting stats, such as SMOG Index, Gunning Fog Score and Coleman Liau Index, which are all used to measure readability and content complexity, but the two I usually refer to are the FK Grade Level and the FK Reading Ease.
TOOL 2 – MICROSOFT WORD
This is what some pro copywriters don’t want you to find out, because the FK tool is also an unlockable feature in your very own Microsoft Word. Let’s see how you can unlock it.
For Windows users:
- Open Microsoft Word, and click on File at the top left corner, and then click on Options.
- On the pop-up, you will be shown a swarm of options, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just head over to Proofing, and look for Show readability statistics.
For Mac Users:
- Open Microsoft Word, and click on Word on the top left corner. Select Preferences.
- Select Spelling & Grammar.
- Look for Show readability statistics and check it.
Once you have activated that option, the next time you perform a Spelling and Grammar check, towards the end, you’ll get a pop-up report that looks like this:
The score differs slightly from the WebpageFX version, but it is difference negligible.
Hint: I like to use the MS Word option because it gives me the statistics on Passive Sentences as well. I prefer to keep the % to below 10%. Passive sentences are great to spur curiosity and intrigue, much like a novel, but will generate too much “questions” in the minds of the readers. That is bad for sales copies because you’d want your read to take action.