Article Readability Study

Using the Laesbarhedsindex (LIX) readability formula, we analyzed 100,000 random sample of articles to see what level our members are writing their articles for:

Essentially this chart shows that our members are more likely to write Easier-to-read articles than they are to write Difficult-to-read articles.


Would you find any value in knowing at what level your articles are written for in terms of readability or do you think this metric is just a novelty and will have no long-lasting value?

50 Comments »


1
Martin Avis writes:

Chris, does your survey have any way to correllate the readability score with popularity?

I think the metric is interesting, but only if put into context.

Martin

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 3:05 AM

[Reply]

2

Martin,

That is phase 2 to this study and we already have the job lined up in our developers project queue. Expect an answer before October is over.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 3:24 AM

[Reply]

3
Mark Thompson writes:

Chris,

When I first started writing for article for submission here I used to check the readability of my articles before submitting. I’ve not done it now for several years.

It strikes me that it might be a nice addition to add the readibility score to the article submission page so that the 20% of people submitting difficult or very difficult articles have a chance to make them more accessible to readers.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 4:08 AM

[Reply]

4
Martin Avis writes:

It would be a pity, though, if it resulted in an unnecessary dumbing down of articles. Some writers, and some markets need a more complex language.

And some readers appreciate it.

Martin

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 4:12 AM

[Reply]

5

Hi Chris!

I think this metric is necessary for a few authors. Sometimes I give lessons about complicated matters, but my articles are very simple and clear.

I’ve been simplifying a very complicated method of dream interpretation for almost 20 years, so I believe that I know very well how to transform a complex document in a very simple one.

However there are many authors that not only are not able to simplify what is difficult, but transform something simple in a very complicated matter, because they don’t know how to write with clarity.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 4:20 AM

[Reply]

6

Hi Chris,

I would appreciate having a readability score for my articles. I’m always striving for improvement and so feedback and analysis is very helpful.

Thanks.

Nickolove

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 4:32 AM

[Reply]

7
David Leonhardt writes:

I agree, it would be incredibly useful to have a readability score for our draft articles. It would be like an early warning if we are straying. :-)

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 6:33 AM

[Reply]

8
Peter Coughlin writes:

Hmmm…

People will no doubt try to make their articles more readable by using shorter sentences and words, but will that make for better articles?

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:05 AM

[Reply]

9
Terry Weber writes:

Readability is in the eye (understanding) of the reader. We must try to write for our specific audience. Targeted writing is the answer.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:14 AM

[Reply]

10
Alan Boyer writes:

Yes, I’d be interested in comparing the readability to other measurements I track.

I track my results through measuring how many people read my articles as compared to others in the same category, and then how many of those that start reading finish, and finally, what percentage of those actually sign up for more on my website.

To me, those are the success measurements. Whether my articles get people wanting more of it from me.

So, being able to compare the readability scores to my bottom line success scores would be interesting.

In my coaching of others who write, I’ve found that people tend to start off on the extreme academic side of the “difficulty” scores and find that it doesn’t convince very many of their readers to do what the author wanted them to do.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:34 AM

[Reply]

11

Peter, when someone writes an article caring for its readability this doesn’t mean that its quality won’t be excellent, on the contrary.

No matter how complicated is the subject you are talking about, if you are a good writer you must be clear and transform it in something easy to be understood, especially because you are not writing articles for specialists, but for common people who may ignore everything about the topic you are talking about.

The solution for all writers who want to write objective and clear articles is the organization of their thoughts.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:34 AM

[Reply]

12
Lance Winslow writes:

I liked the readability article on the various tests. I rate it a 5 star. And believe it to be a medium level readability, although have no way to check it out.

I think this is valuable information, I have often later realized that my articles were too easy and modified them, and some that were to complex, sentences too long, words too big and not in most people’s vocabs, so, I modified them. It would be smart for all article authors to consider this and then modify their writing for their target readers. Once they do this enough it will become habit.

Lance

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:41 AM

[Reply]

13
Joshua Chancha writes:

The index shows that more than 70% of articles can be read by an averagely trained persons. It is good sign that the articles are readable and can be simply understood’

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:47 AM

[Reply]

14
Hanifa K. Cook writes:

With so many blogs and articles on the internet, simplicity and readability is essential to keep readers coming back. It is encouraging.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:53 AM

[Reply]

15

I use the Flesch-Kincaid readability score built into Word, and strive for a 9th-10th grade reading level. I want my articles to be easily understood and a quick read for people around the world, many of whom speak and read English as a second or third language.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 7:58 AM

[Reply]

16
Allen Graves writes:

Chris,

Really cool information! I think it would be benficial for me, as an author, to have this information on my own articles…as well as phase 2.

What time span were those 100,000 articles taken from? Were they randomly chosen from all-time articles or, like just the past year?

I am just wondering if this would be accurate as to what is happening right now as opposed to a purely historical figure.

Have you noticed any trends happening with these numbers?

AL

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 8:51 AM

[Reply]

17
Jonathan writes:

Hi Chris,

This is a very interesting tool, and I would most certainly enjoy studying my results.

Best

JF

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 9:01 AM

[Reply]

18
Jennifer writes:

I think this thing is interesting, but definitely not necessary.

It should be beta tested so you can see if people even use it… or treat it like a novelty.

Perhaps information overload for quite a few people, and slow down their article writing for you… and themselves.

I already know where my articles would place just by “eye-balling” them. Obviously if you ask members they’re going to want it, but they don’t NEED it.

I doubt I’d even look at it because I’ll be too busy writing more articles while others are sitting there spending their precious time changing around sentences and words instead of writing new articles.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 9:26 AM

[Reply]

19
colleen writes:

yes, I would like the metric and I would also like to see how it correlates with popularity, but also agree that some topics are just simply more difficult than others, hence requiring some of the more advanced features of the language.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 9:53 AM

[Reply]

20
Allen Graves writes:

Jennifer,

Don’t be short-sighted about this. Yes, you could spend the 30 seconds writing a sentence in another article, but I would be willing to give up that 30 seconds for the information. I mean, come on…it’s a bar chart with 5 data sets. Not an intricate statistical cube.

I think the information, if taken literally and compared with CTR and conversions would be WELL worth a few seconds of looking at the chart.

Allen Graves

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 10:09 AM

[Reply]

21
David Leonhardt writes:

Hi Connie. Where do you get the Flesch-Kincaid rating in Word. I can’t find it anywhere? I’m in Vista.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 10:15 AM

[Reply]

22
Jennifer writes:

I don’t think people would even know how to use the information to make their articles read easier. They’ll make random changes.

From what I’ve read from Chris, it’s my impression that his goal is increased article output. If that’s the case, then this doesn’t fit into that goal since it’ll make people overanalyze their articles.

Also, from 1 niche to another, “difficult” will mean drastically different things since the readership in certain niches will have a higher IQ.

So although an article may be categorized as difficult for the average person, the average person wouldn’t even be reading articles in that niche. The average person reading in a particular niche will find the “difficult” articles, easy.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 10:24 AM

[Reply]

23
Ramalingam writes:

I wish my articles that I submit to your web site be in the category of readability but neither easy nor difficult to read but conform to standard parameters.A useful blog to assess myself just to see where I stand.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 11:08 AM

[Reply]

24

This information is helpful, Jennifer, because many authors will understand that what they wrote is too complicated for example, and they have to organize their thoughts.

This way EA’s editors will save time, because most articles will be already organized.

What will this feature analyze?

It will show the mistakes an author is making if he or she is mixing his products’ qualities with the definition of their results and the explanation about their functionalism in the same paragraph, for example!

He has to share this information and give explanations about each item separately.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 11:11 AM

[Reply]

25

Jennifer makes perfect sense to me. It would be interesting to look at, a novelty as she suggested. I am biased now though, siding with Jennifer after being stunned by her… her # of articles and the hits she is getting. Honestly Jennifer! I have been thinking that over a lot. Humbled and awed.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 11:50 AM

[Reply]

26

While I’m pretty certain this will not in any way change my writing style, since that is pretty ingrained and I use my own personal ‘tone’ to my writing that I would lose if I tried to change the style too much…. I still think I would enjoy seeing the readability, if for nothing more than novelty sake.

As someone said earlier though, it will be interesting to compare page views, URL clicks and readability together to see if popular content is consistently in a certain range while other content with fewer hits might be on the extreme ends.

While I don’t think I’d use it every day, when I’m in one of my curious data crunching moods, I think I’d enjoy this tool very much.

Love and stuff,
Michy

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 11:55 AM

[Reply]

27

Allen,

Time span is 4 years. We did not do any temporal studies yet as to whether articles are being written as easier or harder to read.

Jennifer is right… this data could result in analysis paralysis… leading to no new action.

I can see how this stat might help you to know how you write in relation to others in your same niche… but ultimately, this report may only be entertaining and not business actionable… unless we were able to prove that certain types of articles that have this vs. that kind of readability attract more visitors and clicks. Who knows… but we’ll find that out as it’s on deck right now to discover.

Lastly, this issue is largely about PRESENTATION of expertise. If we determine that EASIER TO READ outperforms HARD TO READ, I’d fear that some authors may dumb down the content when they should simplify the presentation of their content. See the huge distinction difference? Simplifying content can be a difficult skill in itself.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 12:52 PM

[Reply]

28
Marcia Hays writes:

Okay…Several thoughts….

I welcome anything that would help me improve my articles, whether it be for the general public’s viewing or for a more specialized niche market.

Maybe there could be an evaluation like the spell checking, to target where there may be a problem, allowing the author to either accept or reject what was discovered based on who they are targeting.

I am very nerdy when it comes to evaluating anything to improve on it. I love, LOVE stats. So bring ’em on!

I, too, would like to know where Connie gets the Flesch-Kincaid readability score she mentioned she has access to in Word.

Later!

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 1:01 PM

[Reply]

29

Check readability stats in Word:

Tools
Options
Spelling & Grammar
Click the box for ‘check readability statistics’

After you run spelling and grammar check, you’ll go through that, and then at the very end of the spell check, after everything else has been checked, it will pop up a readability stat box with grade level and other information about the writing, including number of passive sentences, average words per sentence, etc.

Love and stuff,
Michy

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 1:06 PM

[Reply]

30

Michy,
Thanks for providing the Flesch-Kincaid info to the others before I could get back here. I’m just so used to writing at that 9th-10th grade level, I don’t even think about it anymore.

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 2:39 PM

[Reply]

31

The readability’s metric must be based on the organization of an author’s ideas, and not on the article’s presentation.

For example, an article may have many bullet points, but still be messy, while another article may have only regular paragraphs but be very well organized and understandable.

Everything depends on the logic followed by the author. This is what a feature designed to evaluate the readability of an article must be based on, in order to be only very helpful for authors and editors.

If a few (or many authors) will be paralyzed by the necessity to express their ideas clearer, they better really stop writing articles without this indispensable notion and have some lessons about article writing, or hire a ghostwriter.

Who wants disorganized and hardly understandable articles?

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 3:26 PM

[Reply]

32
Shirley Bass writes:

Wow, that was an enlightening article by Dr. Paul Nicholls. I didn’t realize I could check the readability of my work in Word. I’m excited about this learning experience and bookmarked the article.

I immediately had to try it out in Word and loved the feature. It’s something I didn’t learn in my computer class and didn’t bother to read about in my textbook.

I can see the value in checking the readability of my articles and will do so from now on.

I vote ‘yes’ to knowing the level of my article writing!

Shirley Bass

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 4:37 PM

[Reply]

33
Martha Lipson writes:

Chris,

Very good article and I plan to incorporate some of the techniques you suggested into my article writing. I like what you said about rewriting passive sentences so that they become active.

Thanks for the great information.

Martha Lipson

Comment provided October 21, 2008 at 9:17 PM

[Reply]

34

I think we were discussing this matter for no reason yesterday. Since most authors do understand that they have to be clear and most of them already write readable articles, this new feature is in fact help for the few authors who are in the beginning of article writing, and it can only help them.

Since at EzineArticles we don’t care for productivity without quality, it is obvious that this feature is necessary.

Why could it be analysis-paralysis?

If an author keeps seeing that his or her articles are not readable, they will understand that they need help. Perhaps a simple edition by a private editor will solve the problem.

English is my third language and I always use a private editor for grammar mistakes. Other authors may need more help, but still, this is a cheap service if you look for it.

Today I was thinking about this matter, and I can tell you that I would like very much to have this feature, for a reason not discussed yet here.

When I’m writing about craziness for example (an obviously complicated matter), perhaps it would be very helpful for me to check the readability and finish my article without worrying so much about its complication.

I have an opposite problem: I care too much about the readability of my articles, especially when I write about complicated matters. I know that a common person cannot follow many things without having many explanations, and at the same time I know that I cannot write a novel with explanations in the article’s body! So, I try to explain everything very well in only a few words.

Sometimes I check my articles for half an hour after writing them, because I keep explaining better a few points and changing complicated terms for easier ones, etc. So, if I will be able to simply check the readability and see that my article is ok, I can stop simplifying and explaining everything much better!

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 12:33 PM

[Reply]

35
Jennifer writes:

Christina,

Your most recent post just proved the point I was making. :)

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 3:20 PM

[Reply]

36

Hi Jennifer!

If I understood well, you were against the new feature because it would delay the authors’ productivity, while I think that if it provokes problems to the authors’ productivity this means that they must study article writing before submitting their articles.

What I said today was that if I will check the readability and see that my article is ok, I will stop simplifying it, what means that instead of caring about this matter I will spend my time writing another article. In other words, I believe that the new feature will help me Save Time.

Where is the relation between what you said with what I said?

Let me read again what you said! Perhaps you believe that there is a relation in the end:

‚¬“Also, from 1 niche to another, ‚¬“difficult‚¬ will mean drastically different things since the readership in certain niches will have a higher IQ.
So although an article may be categorized as difficult for the average person, the average person wouldn’t even be reading articles in that niche. The average person reading in a particular niche will find the ‚¬“difficult‚¬ articles, easy.‚¬

What you said here cannot be generalized.

Who told you that the readership in certain niches will have a higher IQ?

Depressed people not only don’t have a higher IQ, as well as they lose their capacity to understand whatever, because they are weak and sad. However, I have to write articles for them about the danger of craziness and how they can prevent it. This means that I have to write articles about complicated matters for the average person, so I have the obligation to simplify my explanations.

If I will be able to check my complicated article’s readability and verify that it is already good enough, I will stop caring about making it easier for my readers.

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 4:24 PM

[Reply]

37

OMG… depressed people, lower IQs and calling it craziness? Depressed people most certainly do not necessarily have lower IQs. My God, some of the most brilliant people on this planet were severely depressed!

(sigh)…

People read, all sorts of people read. This isn’t about dumbing anything down. This isn’t about how smart anyone is.

It’s about reaching the maximum number of readers at a level the maximum number of readers can understand without feeling like it was written by a first grader or a rocket scientist.

It’s about how easy it is to read something. This has nothing to do with technical writing, big words, etc. It has to do with compound sentences that can get confusing, overuse of adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases, parenthetical asides… it’s not about the content, but how the content is written – grammar rules, etc. Style and flow, passive and active voice, tense, etc.

Perhaps reading more about how readability statistics are calculated will help people better understand. I think there’s some misconceptions here about what readability is.

Love and stuff,
Michy

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 5:05 PM

[Reply]

38
Kathi Calahan writes:

Love the idea. In early journalism classes we were taught to write at a 6th grade level. Will this, or has this, concept become part of all our articles?

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 5:39 PM

[Reply]

39

Hi Michy!

I didn’t say that all depressed people have low IQ level, but that they don’t have a higher IQ level (because Jennifer said that the audience that cares about complicated matters will probably have a higher IQ level), while I have to explain them how they can avoid becoming crazy, exactly because depression leads to craziness and suicidal thoughts.

Besides that, there are many types of depression. If someone suffers from serious depression, they don’t even want to think. A bipolar patient I had during my summer offer of free dream translation and psychotherapy for example, told me that she had too much difficulty on understanding and learning whatever. If you knew her case you would wonder how she could continue living after what happened to her!

I write articles about mental health and mental illnesses for people that have serious problems and have no courage to live.

This is why I super-simplify my articles each time I write something complicated. It would be helpful if I could verify their readability and stop making them simpler for my readers if this is not necessary, because they are already simple enough.

Now, let’s discuss also what you said about the meaning of readability:

‚¬“It’s about how easy it is to read something. This has nothing to do with technical writing, big words, etc. It has to do with compound sentences that can get confusing, overuse of adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases, parenthetical asides! it’s not about the content, but how the content is written – grammar rules, etc. Style and flow, passive and active voice, tense, etc.‚¬

Your definition is good, but incomplete. The readability of any document must first of all be based on the way that an author expresses his or her ideas. If your sentences are beautiful but your ideas are disorganized, your article’s meaning cannot be easily understood, therefore it is not readable.

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 5:47 PM

[Reply]

40

No, Christina, my definition is not incomplete. You are talking about readability in general, while I am talking about readability statistics that a computer program can offer.

The computer program cannot tell you if the article is organized or disorganized. It can only pick up the things I’ve listed.

I could write a page of pure jibberish, but as long as every sentence had a subject, a verb, a complete thought without too many adverbial and prepositions phrases or parenthetical asides, or for a compound sentence had only two subjects and two verbs, with the same requirements, it would not matter if the article was organized.

The cat was black. = good readability.

The door was happy. = good readability.

The sidewalk was turpentine. = good readability.

One of those is easy to understand, the others might make you scratch your head, but the readability statistics would say they were all good.

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 5:54 PM

[Reply]

41

If it works this way, this feature is a disaster!

Comment provided October 22, 2008 at 6:18 PM

[Reply]

42
Jennifer writes:

Christina,

I’m not for or against the feature. I’m looking at it from beyond my own personal use. Chris is the one spending the money… it’s easy for people who aren’t paying for things to say they want the stuff. But I’m sure those same people wouldn’t even pay $2 a month for this “must have” feature.

What you said about me mentioning IQ in 1 of my posts is not even related to anything I said about you proving my point.

You said…
“Sometimes I check my articles for half an hour after writing them, because I keep explaining better a few points and changing complicated terms for easier ones, etc. So, if I will be able to simply check the readability and see that my article is ok, I can stop simplifying and explaining everything much better!”

That’s exactly what I described in a previous post and what Chris termed “analysis paralysis”.

Comment provided October 23, 2008 at 9:25 AM

[Reply]

43
Terry Weber writes:

I try to write the way I talk, I use same: words, pauses, questions, humor, personality. I ask myself: If my reader were right here with me now, what would I say and how would I say it? I’ve learned it is best for me to think first and write later.
Terry

Comment provided October 23, 2008 at 10:03 AM

[Reply]

44

My analysis is not paralysis, but simplification. After simplifying enough my articles, I submit them.

But according to what Michy said this feature is not adequate and helpful as I thought. So, we better forget it.

Comment provided October 23, 2008 at 10:35 AM

[Reply]

45

Great post and great comments. I learned a new feature that I was unaware of in word. This is a great blog to learn from other great article writers. Thanks to all of you for your comments.

Annie

Comment provided October 23, 2008 at 7:50 PM

[Reply]

46
Chinmay Chakravarty writes:

Simple is most difficult.

Comment provided October 25, 2008 at 5:29 AM

[Reply]

47
Terry Weber writes:

It has been said: ” The solution to this problem, when found, will be simple.” K.I.S.S.
Terry

Comment provided October 25, 2008 at 8:35 AM

[Reply]

48

Chinmay- Boy if that isn’t the truth. It is so much more difficult to simplify something and to know when it is good once simplified.

One of my paintings was just accepted into a very prestigious competitions *** Yay with fireworks!*** It was submitted with a 500 word narrative. Yesterday they asked me to simplify and shorten it to one single paragraph for their catalog. OMG!! It took me 2 stinking HOURS to do that! To reduce and simplify something, yet still maintain its original impact and integrity is darn hard!

Comment provided October 25, 2008 at 4:52 PM

[Reply]

49

OHH good grief! I see I forgot to close my italic, not only in the right spot but at all!

Remember when I did that with BOLD! too funny.. sorry!

Comment provided October 25, 2008 at 4:55 PM

[Reply]

50

Oh no! I forgot to write my blogspot correctly! So difficult!

Comment provided October 26, 2008 at 7:22 AM

[Reply]

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Please read our comment policy before commenting.