Why You Should Use Readability Scores

            Concise language. Plain language. Readability. You have probably heard all of these terms concerning writing at some point. Even though these words are used to the point of becoming trite, they do bring up good points. Your writing does need to be clear so that you can effectively communicate with your readers. One way to make sure you are on the right track is by using readability scores.

What Are They?

            Readability scores are essentially different systems to measure how easy it is to read and understand a text. There are many ways to measure readability. One popular system is the Flesch Kincaid Readability Grade Level score, which is the one that I prefer. It’s measuring system is based on the expected reading ability of each school system grade level. It makes it easier to understand the score when you have something familiar like grade levels to compare your writing to. Knowing how your work compares can tell you how well you are conveying your ideas to your audience.

Why Should You Use Them?

            One benefit of using readability scores is to identify and remove jargon. Technical terms and buzzwords will make the readability score go up and alert you to wording that you don’t want. Long, complex words will send your work up toward a college reading level. You don’t want that if you don’t intend it for academic purposes. Readers seek out writing that is several grade levels below what they know. People prefer to save energy when they read. Even if they understand complex language, they don’t always seek it out. If your reader can’t easily read your work, they most likely won’t read it at all.

            Another benefit of readability scores is that they will help you remove fluff. All those filler words will affect your score because they muddle your meaning and distract readers. If you use the scores to help you edit, you can identify what is simply filling space and not conveying any meaning. Because readability scores can help you get an objective view of your work, they can help you point your writing in the right direction. You’ll have cleaner copy that gets to the point and keeps your reader’s attention.

            Something that I like specifically about the Flesch Kincaid grade level score is that it is easy to access. If you use either Microsoft Word or Grammarly, you can find your readability score. Microsoft Word has a special section for readability information in its Editor section. You can set it to show you your readability scores along with your word count. For instance, a quick check says that this post is at an 8th grade reading level. In everyday writing, the average person prefers about an 8th or 9th grade level of language. It makes it so that people can communicate faster and easier, without wasting time processing higher levels of language.

            Sometimes it is hard, as the writer, to know if you are clearly communicating your point to others because you are so close to your subject. Readability scores act as a gauge to help you know how concise and clear your writing is. You can use the readability score to help you play with wording and find the best way to say what you want. Both you and your readers can benefit from your using readability scores such as the Flesch Kincaid grade level score because it alerts you to what works and what doesn’t, and it makes your content more enjoyable and understandable for your readers.

How to Write Clear and Meaningful Articles

            Grammar rules and style guides have several differences. One difference is their goals. Style guides have two goals that grammar rules are not always concerned with: meaning and clarity. These are two goals that you should have for your writing as well. Achieving clear and meaningful writing will help you create better articles for your readers.

Express Your Purpose through Meaning

            Meaning is critical to writing. You need a purpose for your writing, or it will go nowhere very fast. It is possible to use a lot of words and say nothing at all. I see it all the time in business documents. You don’t want your writing to be the same way.

            The best method to ensure your writing is saying what you want it to is slowing down when you write. It is common advice to write your first draft without stopping so that you can get words on the page. When you start your revisions, you need to take the time to rethink your word choices.

            First, you need to lay out what you intend your article to say. Then, look at the phrases you used and think about what they mean. Do their meanings match your intent? Are they expressing what you want? It is easy to fall into routines when you write and use the same jargon, buzzwords, and trite expressions. By going through the thought process and challenging yourself to define the words, you can find better ways of saying what you want that will carry more meaning.

Promote Understanding with Clarity

            Meaning and clarity are closely related and work together. You can use words that pinpoint your meaning, but they won’t fully do their job unless they are clear to your readers. Both you and your readers need to understand the meaning for the article to serve its purpose. Clarity, in conjunction with meaning, makes that happen.

            The best way to achieve clarity is to be precise and concise. Don’t hedge around your meaning. Use words that will state it plainly, or as an editor would say, use plain language. If you bury your meaning in vague wording, jargon, or a long string of modifiers, the reader won’t be able to make sense out of it.

            Being precise leans heavily on meaning. Try to find words that get close to the nuance of meaning you wish to convey. A thesaurus is handy for this purpose. You don’t want to get so specific that you use obscure words that the average reader has never heard, but you do want to use strong, vivid wording. It is a balancing act that requires thought on your part.

            Conciseness will come from cutting out unnecessary modifiers, phrases, and dependent clauses. You are writing an article, not poetry. I’m reminding myself of this even as I’m telling you. I tend towards using long sentences full of phrases. You need a balance so that you don’t lose your author’s voice but still use minimal phrases so that your point is clear to your reader.

Conclusion

            Meaning and clarity are two goals for you as a writer that work together to help you achieve better articles. Meaning will help you state your purpose to your readers, and clarity makes sure those readers understand that purpose. You can look to style guides, your style sheet, and common sense to help you develop the meaning and clarity of your writing.