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  • Jim Shupe

Communicating for Impact

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

When we share a message with others, we want to be heard and understood. Surprisingly, getting the message to the receiver is only a part of getting your point across. The most important factors come when the message is getting created - readability and grade-level equivalence.

Two of the most popular tools for determining these scores are the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch / Kincaid Grade Level. These formulas primarily rely on sentence length and word length.

The Flesch Reading Ease formula was developed in the 1940s to make newspapers easier to read. In 1975 the Flesch-Kincaid grade level model was developed for use by the US Navy. Its purpose was to measure how hard it was to read various technical manuals. Today, these are widely used by print and online media to make their content more accessible to a wider audience.

Most content and well-known authors target an 8th grade reading level. This makes it accessible to 80%+ of the US population who can read this level comfortably.

The benefits of writing at a lower grade level include:

· More time on a website

· Lesser bounce rate

· Increased sharing with friends

· More purchases

· The audience gets more information out of the content and therefore more value

Wherever possible, you should also be targeting the 8th grade writing level. This is true for published content as well as email and presentations. If your audience finds it’s easy to understand your note, they are more likely to read it entirely and forward to others as appropriate.

A search can find online resources to measure readability and grade-level for you automatically. If you use Microsoft Word, these data points are included in a sub-menu feature in the Editor. Select Tools-> Spelling and Grammar->Editor. Then on the lower right-hand side at the bottom is a button marked 'Document Stats'.

After clicking through the warning message that larger files can take longer to process, a screen like this will appear. Note the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level near the bottom.

I hope you'll consider using these tools to write more effective copy. It takes some getting used to, but I'm personally committed to aiming for an 8th-9th grade level.


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