There are some parts of content creation that are necessary, but very boring. Probably the dullest of all is checking the readability of whatever it is you have created and the following are the 5 best readability tools to try.
Whether it is a website or an article, it has to be easy to view and understand by the person who comes across it. So that dull process is crucial to the overall finished product you are left with.
You can find endless checklists for making sure you have a website or article with the highest standard of readability possible. These are the five that I personally use in my day to day life.
This site has a test for both the readability of a website, and of a piece of writing.
It is based around the Gunning-Fog index and the Flesch-Reading ease and Flesche-Kincaid grade level.
Don’t know what any of that means?
Don’t worry, it will explain it all to you, and offers a handy guide for understanding and interpreting your results. It will even show you what level you are writing on, from the Bible to “the government is covering something up” grades of writing. No, seriously.
A standard statistics tool, this one lets you copy/paste in your text to calculate your readability. That includes the average words per sentence, lexical density, unique words, number of sentences, and the Gunning-Fog index rating.
It will only take text up to 10,000 characters, so if it is longer than that you will have to break it up into batches.
Test your content by URI, direct input for referrer. It grades it on several levels and then tells you the general readability of a website or piece of writing.
For example, my own website could be easily understood by 11 to 12-year-olds who might come across it. Which gives it a high level of readability.
A website dedicated to technical jargon would likely have a lower readability score because of the nature of the content.
You want to aim towards being clear in your field, whatever that field may be.
This is a super simple tool that has you copy/paste in the content, select the method of grading and then gives you your results.
There is the Flesch-Kincaid for English, LIX for Swedish and Danish, Fernandez-Huerta for Spanish, Douma for Dutch, and Kandel & Moles for French.
There is a link that explains the standards and methods for measurement on the same page, which you might want to check out.
If your primary concern is stylistic mistakes and feature issues, then this is a great tool.
It works for OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Chrome, Firefox or WordPress (I have one for all of them, actually), and it will calculate all chosen content so you can always know where there is a problem with your readability, no matter what it is.
Tips for improving readability.
You have done the grading with the tools above, so now what?
If your score was high, then congratulations; keep doing what you’re doing. But if your score was low, or you just want to be clearer with your content, here are a few tips:
Always reread your content several times.
Whether you take your time or rush through the initial writing, you should be rereading it multiple times to make sure it sounds right.
Try rereading once immediately after writing, do your edits, read it again and then go and do something else. In a couple of hours, read it again and see if it still flows.
Ask yourself who could understand it.
What age bracket are you trying to appeal to?
Ask yourself if your middle aged neighbor could understand what you are writing. Then his 20-year-old daughter. Then his 11-year-old son.
You want to be accessible, without compromising the integrity of the writing itself.
Use familiar words.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting fancy.
The words you choose should be well known and familiar, and not just to you. Will that neighbor next door understand what a word means without having to turn to Google? Then you’re on the right track.
Keep your fonts standard.
There is nothing worse than going to a site and finding the font is overly complicated, weirdly colored and hard to read.
No one wants to read your content so badly they will pay the price of getting a headache for the honor.
Make your paragraphs short.
This is, presumably, being posted on the web, so your paragraphs should be short and broken down to look better on the page.
A block of text is difficult to read on a screen, especially for mobile devices. Aim to make paragraphs a couple of sentences a piece, with a clear focus in each one.
Have any readability tools or tips?
Let us know in the comments.
- License: Image author owned
- License: Image author owned