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Is your content READABLE?
tangor




msg:4391310
 5:27 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

One way to engage readers is to write something they can read!

I created the following sentence and popped it into a number of "text reading score" (Bing search) apps/widgets on the web and scored it.

Writing for comprehension is a difficult task at best, thus long established writers will make every effort to maintain a clear, concise, and simple text without obfuscation.

Which scored:
Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 15.00
Gunning-Fog Score 18.20
Coleman-Liau Index 15.60
SMOG Index 12.90
Automated Readability Index 17.20
Average Grade Level 15.78


I then sent the following sentence, which says the SAME THING:
If you want readers to understand what you've written, keep it simple, clear, and concise.

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.00
Gunning-Fog Score 8.70
Coleman-Liau Index 12.10
SMOG Index 6.00
Automated Readability Index 8.40
Average Grade Level 8.24


Depending on your topic, you'll want to match the readability index to the content.

In lieu of using web-based solutions, most word processor programs contain one or more of the above text scoring methods.

Do YOU use any of the above methods to check the content presented on your web sites?

 

spaceylacie




msg:4396514
 3:12 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

tangor, I didn't have to leave the site to understand your point/OP. Because I am a native North American?

I even came back later to look-up your references and see what it said about my sites' readability.

The text on my site for beginners scores low, or easy to read. But, my other site, the one I wrote for teachers and researchers like me, rates hard-to-read, college level and above. But when you are explaining polymers on a molecular level, how easy to read can you really make it? I try to keep the sentences/paragraphs short, factual and to the point. It would be interesting to re-write a technical article, aiming for any score below college level. Maybe expand my audience for that site.


buckworks




msg:4396516
 3:27 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

It would be interesting to re-write a technical article, aiming for any score below college level.


It can be done, I promise you, without sacrificing any of the information that the original version contained.

Leosghost




msg:4396522
 3:32 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

<slightly OT>"college level" to me ( educated in the English / Irish educational "systems"in the 60s and very early 70s ) means from age 16 to age 18/19 ..students older than that would be at universities or in "my day", possibly polytechnics ( I think the latter no longer exist )..the "1st grade" or "5th grade" etc mean nothing to most of those of us educated outside of North America, as in our systems "grades" refer to examination results ..not student / pupil ages..
</slightly OT>

spaceylacie




msg:4396527
 3:47 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

<slightly OT>Ages 3 through 9 can be grade school level in the US. 10-13 would be about intermediate. 14-17 is highschool level. 18-21 is entry level college. Varies per student, of course.</slightly OT>

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Buck. I am going to try it.

Leosghost




msg:4396528
 3:53 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

<again slightly OT>

To expand upon "student pupil ages"..

English/UK, Irish system in place from 1960 up to 1990 ( I left the UK at the end of the 80s ..it may have changed since )

primary school ..age 5 - 7 years
junior school ..age 8 - 11 years
secondary school .. age 12 - 16 years
college ( sometimes known as sixth form college* ) ..age 16 - 18 years
university ..age 18 - "no upper age limit".. depends upon length of studies**

*stems from the grammar schools system when secondary school pupils could "stay on" up to two extra years..hence 5th form and 6th form ..entry at age 12 being 1st form ..

**students can begin university younger than 18 years old in exceptional cases, and adults can begin university studies at any age, ones "leaving age" is dependent upon the length of ones studies ..some courses take longer than others..the American "Masters Degree" ( like MBA ) is not considered to be as high as a basic British / Irish BA, and certainly not as high as a British or Irish "Masters", both of which require far more study in years, and more stringent examinations than in the US ..

</again slightly OT>

spacylacie ..thanks for the explanation :)

So..at age 3 , what is ones "grade"..and at age 9, what is ones "grade" ?
Ages 3 through 9 can be grade school level in the US


Would a "4th grader" be 6 years old ? ..and how old is a "twelfth grader" ? ( I'm sure I have heard/ read, the phrase "twelfth grader" at some time ) if they exist..

It would be interesting to re-write a technical article, aiming for any score below college level.





It can be done, I promise you, without sacrificing any of the information that the original version contained


Indeed ..:) Think "Carl Sagan"..:)

spaceylacie




msg:4396531
 4:10 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

<again slightly OT>A first grader in the US starts at 6 years old, usually, I started at 4. A second grader would then be average 7 years old, 3rd grader is 8, 5th grader is usually 10, and a twelfth grader, yes, there is such a thing here, would be 17 years old. Then they go off to college(hopefully).
</again slightly OT>

ken_b




msg:4396532
 4:16 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Would a "4th grader" be 6 years old ? .

In the USA....

Generally ages 3 - would be "preschool" or "early education" (both actually in a school of some sort).

5 years old is usually kindergarten.
6 is 1st grade.

Gets harder to define after that, but

12 years old is commonly 6th grade

18 is often 12th grade (the last year of "high school).

Then it is off to college/university/trade school.

spaceylacie




msg:4396533
 4:22 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

We should also mention about the US "grading" system, it differs from state-to-state within the US but generally consistent.

buckworks




msg:4396534
 4:23 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Highly, highly recommended reading:

Writing with Precision: How to Write So That You Cannot Possibly Be Misunderstood -- by Jefferson D. Bates

lucy24




msg:4396535
 4:33 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Schools in the US are rigorously age-delimited. Age minus 5 = grade. That's all. K = kindergarten, the year before 1st grade. For Scandinavia, add a year, and stop counting at age 16. Unless they've added mandatory years since my time.

If an American refers to "13th grade", try not to snicker. It means they are on an athletic scholarship but have to learn to read before they can start college (= university for present purposes).

***

Oops, missed the last three posts while off playing with the test again. Moderators, please look away a minute; I need to quote myself.

No languages were harmed in the naming of this picture. “Chillar” is to squeak, like an animal. It becomes “no chilles” in exactly the same way that “llorar” becomes “no llores”. Any resemblance to chili peppers is purely coincidental and of no interest to the rat.

Automated test says:
Gunning Fog index : 9.82
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text :
Coleman Liau index : 11.17
Flesch Kincaid Grade level : 8.65
ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 7.97
SMOG : 11.22
(The test especially disliked the final sentence.)

Unlike the Similis case, which is pretty open-minded, you’re only allowed to use suurlu if you’re positive that the thing is not what it appears to be. “Darn! I coulda sworn that was my caribou! Looks just like it. But it definitely isn’t.” Think of it as a reward for your honesty.

Test says:
Gunning Fog index: 7.30
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text :
Coleman Liau index : 6.17
Flesch Kincaid Grade level : 5.62
ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 3.31
SMOG : 8.48

Ya think? Really? I think #1 would more-or-less make sense to most people, especially when looking at the accompanying picture. Hit #2 and they will have no idea what I'm talking about. You don't have to be polysyllabic to be incomprehensible. But I do love the package of names beginning with "Fog index" and ending in "SMOG" ;)

How to Write So That You Cannot Possibly Be Misunderstood

Clearly Mr Bates has never been a member of an Internet forum.

spaceylacie




msg:4396544
 4:52 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Schools in the US are rigorously age-delimited. Age minus 5 = grade. That's all.


Sort of, students can also be "held back" or "skip grades", depending on their intelligence level for that grade.

How to Write So That You Cannot Possibly Be Misunderstood

Clearly Mr Bates has never been a member of an Internet forum.


LOL. Anything can be misunderstood.

spaceylacie




msg:4396558
 5:37 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 15.00 means, in the US, highschool education plus 3 years of college.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.00 means, in the US, a child around the age of 11.

tangor




msg:4396568
 7:15 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Most 5 year olds are not web buyers. Most countries recognize that one needs to be at least 18 to form contracts. But for those 18 up, grade-level/years of formal education, has some web criteria. The US grade-level indicates number of years of formal education. That will remain fairly consistent regardless of English-speaking country and what one calls elementary/primary junior high/middle, etc. There will always be exceptional individuals who skip in formal education from rudimentary to graduate level (hence the reports of 12-14 year olds graduating with post graduate degrees) but they are the exception. :)

Where do we, as webmasters, wish to be? Is our site targeted for top level education or the middle, or for everybody else? The everybody else reading level among the test formulas listed above and is adhered to by most ADVERTISING and NEWSPAPER conglomerates which desire to generate income from articles/advertising, is between six years formal education and eight years of formal education. That works out to be somewhere between able to read simple text and able to read election forms with some comprehension.

And if we're talking other countries where English is a second language those countries often introduce English but don't take it to post grad study... that eight years formal education mentioned above becomes an important test number.

Seb7




msg:4396611
 12:43 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think the only thing to think about when making copy is to know your target audience.

Who is going to be reading your content? Dont just look at country and language. Look at average age, gender, professional sector, why are they coming to your site, what is their state of mind, etc.. Think about all these things before you even start. Are you explaining to the older generation how to use their phone, or providing a hint to a geek about video streaming? They way it's written should be in a manner that your target audience can quickly and easily understand. Note there is a big difference between your audience and your target audiene.

(sorry if I repeated anything anyone said, as I got as far as the first post)

ken_b




msg:4396628
 2:06 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

there is a big difference between your audience and your target audience.

That is an excellent observation! It could easily be the topic of a thread or several threads by itself.

HRoth




msg:4396704
 8:25 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Technical language should be used in technical contexts. You would not expect a manual for electricians to be intelligible for the average homeowner, nor should you expect a work on literary theory to be intelligible to the folks outside of the field. And that points to something essential when writing for the web: who is the audience you would like to attract. I think it's important not to talk down to folks on your site unless you want the lowest common denominator visitors. But are people who move their lips when they read folks who spend money? Maybe if you are selling shovels or some such, you should aim for a low reading level. I want to attract people to my site who have some knowledge already. Those people will appreciate the value of what I offer; folks at a child's reading level won't, because they won't have the knowledge to understand where the value comes from. What's more, people who have more education tend to make better money. People with more money usually have more to spend.

I have further found that buzz words that assume a particular level of knowledge draw folks who recognize what they mean. They transmit more than their simple meaning; they communicate that you are knowledgeable. And that breeds trust.

Honestly, when I saw this thread title, I thought it was going to discuss how to use font size and color and so forth to make content more readable, not grade school reading levels.

lucy24




msg:4396774
 11:06 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Technical language should be used in technical contexts. You would not expect a manual for electricians to be intelligible for the average homeowner, nor should you expect a work on literary theory to be intelligible to the folks outside of the field.

Mmm, well, that's the drawback of automated tests. They lump everything together: word length, sentence structure and so on. Take an article aimed at a specialist professional group and replace all technical terms with basic monosyllables like "thing", "place", "move", "put" and so on. If it's still unreadable, you've done something wrong.

Gotta say that "literary theory" is probably a bad example because that isn't supposed to be intelligible. But astrophysics should work. Or rocket science ;)

And the term "buzz word" could set off a fight in its own right. To me, this term means something that assumes a particular belief structure, not a knowledge base. Writing an opinion piece with no buzzwords whatsoever-- so it could theoretically be read by people who disagree with you-- is probably harder than anything else in this thread.

commanderW




msg:4396802
 12:35 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanx Tangor -for spotlighting this subject. Your link is invaluable.
[ideosity.com ]
I had no idea there were tools for evaluating readability ( or comprehensibility, I guess). An aspect of web design that needs attention. Is critical to any business or institution.

I see that SMOG stands for 'Simple Measure of Gobbledygook' and is "Used primarily for checking Health Messages"

There is also the 'Fry Graph'
"Ésometimes used for regulatory purposes, such as in healthcare, to ensure publications have a level of readability that is understandable and accessible by a wider portion of the population."

Others test for readability for children.


This really opens up a whole new aspect to writing for the web that I have only considered in the back of my mind as a general sort of 'Keep It Simple Stupid' rule that generally only serves to filter out most of the 4 syllable words ;)

The resource you've linked to shows that there are many different and important uses of this aspect of writing. Reading and learning about the different adaptations on this list of 'Readability Tests and Formulas' will be an education in itself.

Just based on some of the uses that I have seen so far, knowing about these different tests, and how to employ them, should be a feather in any web designers cap (whoops, there I go with the colloquialisms - if i even spelled that right).

commanderW




msg:4396812
 1:12 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Reading all the posts (I didn't see that there is a page 2 when I made first post above), I see that while some posters have experimented with the tools (I have not yet), no one seems to have examined the actual list on the link Tangor provided. So I went back and gave it a closer look. I found some interesting and pertinent things.

This is interesting-
Linsear Write is a readability metric for English text, purportedly developed for the United States Air Force to help them calculate the readability of their technical manuals. The result is the approximate Grade level of the writing.

And this is pertinent-
The McAlpine EFLAW Readability Score, developed by Rachel McAlpine, is based on two significant flaws: long sentences and a high proportion of miniwords. Both these flaws bamboozle EFL readers.

The entry explains that
(Miniwords are short, common words of one, two or three letters)

Now this alone is valuable info! It is something that never would have occurred to me. That too many small words can confuse 'English as a Foreign Language' readers.
Then at the bottom of this particular entry is a link that is even more pertinent, and very valuable indeed. It is a page by Rachel McAlpine herself, and titled 'From Plain English to Global English'. It begins
Make your documents easy for EFL users to read and understand, and communicate successfully with people all over the world.

[webpagecontent.com ]

tangor




msg:4396814
 1:13 am on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Content and audience has always been important. Where the rubber meets the road is webmasters attempting to turn content into SEO. Nothing wrong with that! But if SEO interferes with the content by introducing readability issues then it might be counterproductive. Google, Bing, etc. have readability scores built into their algos---a small part of the "quality" score assigned to each website. The tests under discussion are not the be-all-end-all, but they do provide a starting point to evaluate content effectiveness.

commanderW




msg:4397157
 6:38 pm on Dec 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Where the rubber meets the road is webmasters attempting to turn content into SEO...But if SEO interferes with the content by introducing readability issues then it might be counterproductive. Google, Bing, etc. have readability scores built into their algos...


So it seems the point here, if I understand you correctly, Tangor, is that page rank has an important component based on readability. So then, this is critical for SEO. Keyword density has to be refined according to readability requirements of target audience. They must work together.

I am reminded of discussions on this forum about usability. One of the gurus here, I believe it is Pageoneresults, writes of spending a lot of time reading the html specifications on w3c site, and how following these guidelines actually enhances the accessibility and usability of a webpage.

In a similar way readability guidelines can also point the way to enhanced page rank.

Alex_TJ




msg:4397265
 12:59 am on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can't find it ATM, but I remember someone from G describing the perfect site as one they'd recommend to their kids if they wanted to learn about a topic. Surely this is also pointing towards clear, concise writing.
As for 'talking down' to our customers, I believe this is more about tone than grade level - clear 'simple' writing can convey powerful messages much better than verbosity, just ask Orwell.

AlexK




msg:4399028
 5:29 pm on Dec 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm finding much of the content in this thread useful. I wanted to add something that is at a tangent to the main thrust:

Maxim: "You know that you understand a topic when your audience understands what you say at the time that you say it".

This 53 message thread spans 2 pages: < < 53 ( 1 [2]
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