Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reading Level

I found this nifty little site that looks at your blog and judges the reading level needed to read it. My blog came out at a High School level.

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I remember reading an article a while ago about running your writing through a reading level test. The writer quotes some statistics from the book: Fiction Writer's Brainstormer by James V. Smith, Jr. He did a study where he took several commercial and literary writers work and looked at four areas: Passive Voice, Number of Characters per Word, Readability, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale.

He found that the best selling authors, read by the majority of adult readers in the US, wrote at a fourth grade level. From this study, he created his Ideal Writing Standard. Now as a writer, he revises every SCENE in his books to the following average standards:

No more than 4.25 characters per word
Passive Voice: 5% or less
Readability: 80% or more on Flesch Reading Ease scale
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 4-6

When I reached 100K words on my book, I ran the entire thing through the tools found in Microsoft Word, and came up with the following:

4.3 characters per word
2% passive voice
77.5% reading ease
5.7 Grade Level.

Also, as a test to see if my editing impoved or degraded my results, I just ran the statistics on my first chapter, which at this point is about as ready for publication as I can get it:

4.3 characters per word
0% passive voice
82.5% reading ease
4.5 Grade Level.

I felt pretty good about this. What it all means I don't know, but if paying attention to readability helps my writing appeal to a broader audience, I am all for it.


S.M.D. said...

OMG! I have that book too and I do exactly the same thing with my writing. That book was really helpful in helping me strengthen my prose!
I think you have to look at those stats with a certain lens. You don't want to destroy anything that might represent your personal writing style, but you also don't want to let your personal style get in the way. If you use a lot of passive voice, you might want to cut it back. I shoot for a middle mark of those stats, but it's not hard for me because I tend to write that way now anyway. Besides, 77% or thereabouts isn't really that bad. It sounds bad, but really it's not. :P Great article by the way!

Tamara Morning said...

Hmm. This is actually pretty interesting. I may have to try to figure out how to run Witches through this. Nice post.

Misti (aka witchofbreithla)