yet another note for myself

Evaluate your writing with Flesch Reading Ease

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Today, I completed writing first chapter of my PhD thesis and Microsoft Word indicates that the “Flesch Reading Ease” score for the first chapter is 30. In order to better understand what this score means, I looked at Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Flesch Reading Ease score of 0-30 indicates that writing can be best understood by a college graduate. In general, higher the Flesch Reading Easer score, easier is the writing to read and comprehend.


Although, I felt good about my Flesch Reading Ease score, I also felt the need to compare my writing with some other published article. After doing some random searches, I came across this interesting article - “Rating the major computing periodicals on readability”.  This article analyzed ten major periodicals and found that average Flesch Reading Ease score varies between 25 – 50. Considering this and that my first chapter is still in draft stage and still got a Flesch Reading Ease score of 30, I think, my writing is reasonable :-)
Flesch Reading Ease score for this article: 65. ( = if you are 13 and above, you should be able to read this post)


1. An Online Tool to calcuate different readability statistics: Style & Diction
2. Books on improving writing skills
            1. The Elements of Style: Okie Book. Talks about simple grammatical mistakes that often non-native (and sometime native) speakers of english make in the writing.
            2. Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader’s Perspective : Great Book. Teaches how to write from reader’s expectation. The only thing I can say about this book is that it teaches what design patterns are to a programmer.
           3. The Pyramid Principle : Logic in Writing and Thinking: Okie Book. Talks about how to organize ideas.


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12 Responses to Evaluate your writing with Flesch Reading Ease

  1. Marsha says:

    Hi, I’d like to point out a weakness with most popular readability formulas. Most give an overly simplified view of how easily readers may comprehend a document. The formulae are usually based on the unproven idea that longer words and sentences are harder to comprehend than shorter words and sentences. For example, they count the word ‘elephant’ as being more difficult to understand than the short but more technicalterm ‘tort’.

    A PhD dissertation contains complex, technical information and its readers are experts (i.e. the examiners). In this case particularly, readability depends primarily on the readers’ ability to 1) locate and 2) understand a complex argument, which will have main topics backed by supporting material.

    Readability formulae are fine as a rough guide, i.e., to check word and sentence length. But where they go wrong is in suggesting that word and sentence length are the only elements that affect how readers comprehend what they read.

    PS–I analysed readability formulae as part of my PhD thesis in text linguistics.

  2. ragrawal says:

    Hi Marsha,

    I guess you are right. If I remember it right, this was the point that George Gophen tries to make in his book “Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader’s Perspective”. But, then, how do you suggest one should evaluate his/her writing ?

    Do you have any link to your PhD thesis. I would be interested to glimse through it and see your point of view.

  3. Chong says:

    I learn from that you’re the author of Memento ( I got to know it just a few days ago, and immediately liked it. I put a lot of time in Memento to build an online database of my collection of papers. However, to my great horror today, I found that is no longer accessible. Is it just temporarily down, or permanently removed? Thank you.

  4. ragrawal says:

    hi Chong,

    It’s temporary and Memento will be up and running within hours. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  5. AJ says:

    I think I would agree with Marsha regarding how applicable a readability score is to assess how well an article/ chapter/ dissertation is written. More specifically, is it important for a PhD dissertation to be extremely readable based on the use of short words and sentences? I guess the point that I am trying to put out is that it is more important in a dissertation to construct valid and well constructed train of arguments. I cannot comprehend how short words and sentences would help in doing so.

  6. ragrawal says:

    hi AJ,

    I feel having short sentences improves readability. But there is no such rule. I have seen authors using long (or very long) sentences, but they tie the words so nicely that the flow of thoughts doesn’t break. I guess, the key is flow of thoughts from one page to another page, from one paragraph to another paragraph, from one line to another line and, finally, from one word to another word.

  7. Gary says:


    I came across your post while doing a search for an app to use on my Mac. I wanted one so that I could calculate the readability of my short stories and novels. The most interesting and easy to use app I found was Flesh (not a typo). Flesh shows your post to have a Flesch Reading Ease Level of 45.27 (meaning it’s not as easy to read as you may have thought), and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 12.49.

    I think the calculator in Microsoft Word is faulty. It gave two of my short stories a Reading Ease score of 100.0, and one of them a Grade Level of 2.0, but the other a Grade Level of 0.0. My divorce settlement, however, received a Reading Ease score of 89.8, and a Grade Level of 8.6, according to Word. If that’s true, then my divorce settlement ought to be as easy to read as any bestselling novel. Trust me, that’s not the case. Flesh, on the otherhand, scored my divorce settlement as having a Reading Ease of 33.18 and a Grade Level of 14.59.

    As to AJ’s point, re: “I guess the point that I am trying to put out is that it is more important in a dissertation to construct valid and well constructed train of arguments. I cannot comprehend how short words and sentences would help in doing so.” Short words and short sentences, regardless of what you are writing, increase the likelihood that your argument, no matter how complex, WON’T be misunderstood. Long words and sentences impress no one, except, perhaps, those who enjoy deliberate obfuscation. Even within the context of a dissertation, if your professor loses your train of thought, it won’t bode well for you, no matter how long (or short!) your words or sentences. The point of any piece of writing, fiction or otherwise, is effective communication.

    As to your point, Ragrawal, re: “I feel having short sentences improves readability. But there is no such rule. I have seen authors using long (or very long) sentences, but they tie the words so nicely that the flow of thoughts doesn’t break.” You are absolutely right. The key, however, is to keep to one thought per sentence. When a writer deviates from that, then the train of thought is in peril of derailing.

  8. ragrawal says:

    hi Gary,

    Thanks for pointing the flaw in MS Word’s reading score. I was skeptical about the score that Word was giving as it was not matching with scores that I recieved from other webistes. And I completely agree with your last point: “keep to one thought per sentence”

  9. It is so difficult to work with contents for clients. One of my friends in working for client, his article is reviewed by almost 6 people, all have their way of judging, one says yes and other no. Too many cooks are spoiling good content. How can one judge the quality of an article? I think one will have to take a call, thats it and rely on user behavior using some analytics. My case is little different from yours :) but thought of putting it here.

  10. ragrawal says:

    hi AjiNIMC,

    I can understand your problem. Same goes for me when I submit my thesis chapter to my committe members. Everyone understand and interpret the same text differently and critique it differently :( . I guess any such measures adopt one perspective. But each human is fundamentally different and has very different perspective.

  11. Keith says:

    I use the Flesch reading ease tool to keep my own fiction writing on track. I look for a percentage of between 60 and 70 percent. This makes it an easy read for a bottom age of around13-15 years and yet remains suitable for adults to read. For academic writing I use between 20-40 percent as an indicator.

    However, the main function of the FRE tool is surely as a great help in keeping writing on track, so that one doesn’t waver between complex and simple sentence/paragraph structures. For that, I find this tool indispensible.

  12. Simple but interesting blog post I must say. I’ve just added your RSS to my google reader! =)