Press the Flesch
“Let’s keep the copy really simple.”
“The shorter the better.”
“We don’t want War & Peace on this.”
The comments above will be more than familiar to anyone working in advertising, especially when creating digital content to be read on mobile devices. So in this age of shorter, quicker, simpler messaging, how do you make sure your copy is as easy to read as possible?
One technique we like here at Sandbox is the Flesch Reading Ease method. By analysing the relationship between word length and sentence length, Flesch Reading Ease measures how easy or difficult a piece of text is to read.
Using students’ educational levels as easy-to-picture examples, Flesch Reading Ease measures ease of readability on a percentage basis. Here are a few examples:
100%: Very easy to read.
This has an average sentence length of 12 words or fewer. No words are more than two syllables. This text is easily understood by an average 11 year old student.
65%: Plain English.
This has an average sentence length of 15 to 20 words. The average word has two syllables. This text is easily understood by 13 to 15 year old students.
A little hard to read. Here sentences have mostly around 25 words. The words are usually two syllables. This text is best understood by college students.
Very hard to read. Here the average sentence is 37 words long. The average word has more than two syllables. This text is best understood by university graduates.
The higher the rating, the easier the text is to read. We’ve found that if you regularly use the Flesch test to check readability of copy, you develop a sense of what a good score is. You also soon learn how to improve it.
Tools to calculate Flesch Reading Ease include Microsoft Office Word, WordPerfect, WordPro and IBM Lotus Symphony.
So how do you check the readability ease of your own copy?
It’s simple. Here’s how you do it in Word:
1. Click the File tab, and then click Options
2. Click Proofing
3. Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected
4. Select Show readability statistics
Just so you know, the Flesch Reading Ease score of this blog is 66. Comfortably Plain English.