The Flesch-Kincaid scale measures the readability of writing. This came up today because someone ran a section of Neil Gaiman's new novel that is available through this. Microsoft Word gives you the option of displaying readability after a spelling and grammar check.
A piece of writing with a 75% readability will be understood by 75% of readers. Writing with a grade level of 8 will be understood by anyone with an 8th grade education or higher.
I just ran my first two graduate history papers and my first three graduate philosophy papers through this. I receive pretty consistant results for all of them with small ranges. For these classes, I'm not particularly trying to speak "up" in my writing. I'm writing in a fairly normal manner. The only thing that is different than my standard writing style is I simplify sentences during my editing process and move some to a more active voice. I tend to write more with a passive voice for some reason and I also tend to longer sentences with a number of subclauses and such. The results are from after my process on my final papers. (I've gotten 'A's on the first paper for each class and no grades yet for the next. I just finished my final edit of my third philosophy paper tonight.)
Here are my results:
Characters per word: 4.9
Word per sentence: 18.6 (this went up to 21 on one paper)
Sentences per paragraph: 5.9
Passive voice: 11%
Reading Ease: 36.8%
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 12.0 (this varies down to 11.1 on two papers)
I'm not sure if this is good or bad but I may not have a future as a popular writer of fiction since I seem to bury the needle on grade level. I wonder if this affects my e-mails at work?
Update: I ran a bunch of my blog entries through it. The grade level moves down to 8.4 to 9.0 but the other statistics are pretty much the same.
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