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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

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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?

 

ken_b




msg:4391312
 5:54 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Which is better, a higher score number or lower?

tangor




msg:4391313
 5:59 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

The numbers indicate GRADE LEVEL attained. Each scale targets slightly different data points, but in general, that's the grade level which can comprehend the text in question.

Wikipedia any of the formats listed above for information on what is covered.

ken_b




msg:4391320
 6:06 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

The numbers indicate GRADE LEVEL

Why are you shouting? It was a simple question based in the lack of critical information in your post.

Which just goes to show that no matter how ...
simple, clear, and concise
a statement is, if it lacks critical information it's pretty much meaningless.
tangor




msg:4391323
 6:17 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

In writing, ken_b, the use of all caps to denote a topic or classification is not shouting. Sometimes the current PC aspect of the web, email, and forums interferes with real communication.

And you are absolutely correct that one piece of the readability score (which is clearly indicated in the attached charts containing the words GRADE and GRADE LEVEL) was not included in the example sentences.

The "which is better" is determined by the topic and intended audience.

If writing for academia, a higher score is probably best.
If writing for the general public, a lower score might be better.
If writing for ecommerce, I would think that even lower scores is more efficient.

buckworks




msg:4391327
 6:50 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

If writing for academia, a higher score is probably best.


As a former academic, I disagree with that. A readability grade level score over 12 is suboptimal writing, no matter what the topic. There's no reason to inflict grade 15 fog on any audience, anywhere.

If your target audience is academia or industry, you'll sometimes need to use specialised vocabulary which tends to push up the reading level score. That's no excuse for lapsing into pompous verbosity across the board, though.

ken_b




msg:4391333
 7:20 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tangor;
OK, fine.

This bugs me no end. You made an assumption, intentional or otherwise, that you could skip including the information that Grade or "Grade Level", which was not universally included in the charts would be understood by the readers in this context and generalized to all the examples listed.

There is little, if any, rational reason to make that assumption in the context of writing on a forum like this. Especially when it is well known that for a good many members here English is not their first language.

I suspect that a simple sentence such as, "In the charts below, The numbers shown refer to educational level (Grade) such as K-12 and beyond." would have provided enough information to make the charts useful without further explanation.

tangor




msg:4391369
 11:12 pm on Nov 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ken_b... I've made no assumptions, but it does appear I've ticked you off without intention. For that I'll take lumps and apologize. As to the charts... they were included in the OP... which is why I'm a bit confused as the chart is self-explanatory (the way I read it) and didn't require a sentence to define it. As I said, no assumptions made and certainly no intent to ruffle feathers.

As for not native English speakers putting up English pages... this kind of scoring can be helpful during page development.

Target audience and topic will determine the number of syllables (word size) used, which is a major factor in the scoring for most of these formulas.

Occasional testing of spinner output through any of the above will give some indication of success for those sites which auto-regurgitate content.

Just suggesting there are some tools out there which can help in the creation and readability of content and make it easier to dial in on target audiences with best material.

lucy24




msg:4391384
 1:00 am on Nov 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

If you need a tool to explain the difference between
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.

(should be "long-established" with a hyphen due to arcane rule about using phrases as modifiers, but never mind that) and
If you want readers to understand what you've written, keep it simple, clear, and concise.

you probably should not be writing for publication.

Do as I say. Not as I do.

:: vague recollection of Spiro Agnew or someone like him saying "eschew obfuscation" ::

buckworks




msg:4391385
 1:04 am on Nov 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

should be "long-established" with a hyphen due to arcane rule


If the writer were tall enough, it would be correct without the hyphen. ;)

jimbeetle




msg:4391492
 6:43 pm on Nov 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've made no assumptions...the chart is self-explanatory

Yeah, you did, and no, it isn't.

You assumed that all of your readers would know that the heading "Readability Formula Grade" referred to a "Grade Level" when only one, the Flesch-Kincaid, specifically states that. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to know that the others are "graded" the same.

It was only after I compared the other numbers in context that I assumed they all referred to grade level. And it was still just an assumption on my part -- you did not explicity tell me. See what happened here? Because you made an assumption I had to do extra work to reach my own assumption. And if this weren't a forum format I would have no way of knowing if my assumption was correct.

Dijkgraaf




msg:4391506
 8:21 pm on Nov 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

So the moral of the story is that an automated tool will only go so far, and to get people that are representative of the target audience to read it and give feedback as to how well they understood it.

lucy24




msg:4391535
 11:45 pm on Nov 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

... and don't ask them if they understood it. Ask them to tell you in their own words what it says. You don't want to know if they say they understood it, you want to know if they did understand it.*


* "Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?" There are at least three groups of people who would truthfully answer No-- and two of those groups will answer Yes.

Hoople




msg:4391845
 11:26 pm on Nov 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

tangor, thank you for bringing this topic up. It gave me the motivation I needed to get past my hesitancy to change a site.

As it turns out the site was way over the target audience education level of 10. Before the change the Gunning Fog index was almost 19!

sundaridevi




msg:4393829
 4:01 pm on Dec 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Do search engines actually use this to evaluate the quality of the content on the page?

buckworks




msg:4393837
 4:56 pm on Dec 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

If I were a search engine I sure would!

Difficult readability makes for a sub-par user experience.

robzilla




msg:4396323
 12:23 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Obviously, there's more to it than the difficulty of the language used. A fairly common mistake is, for example, setting an improper line-height.

albo




msg:4396346
 2:41 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I suppose I end up with lower levels of comprehension. I think Hemingway was a great writer. He wrote at a simple level: [copyblogger.com...]

spaceylacie




msg:4396423
 6:38 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

The most common compliment I get from my site is that I write in a way that "any idiot could understand". The site attracts mostly beginners though, more experienced/knowledgeable users look elsewhere for their information. I think it's a good thing, as there are more dummies out there than knowledgeable users.

Robert Charlton




msg:4396424
 6:46 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

jimbeetle's post about assumptions raises a whole group of questions about the likely audience vs the background of the writer. Even with Google around as a reference, the use of acronyms, technical terms, and even slang in writing can be just right for some audiences but completely wrong for others.

It's often hard for an expert in a field to explain something to a beginner, unless the expert is willing to make the extra effort to see the problem from the beginner's point of view.

Thanks for the Hemingway link, which applies here.

spaceylacie




msg:4396426
 6:55 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I completely agree, Robert. Explaining something in simple terms is much harder than explaining to colleagues. So you have to think, am I explaining this for my colleagues or am I explaining this to the general public? If it's the latter, the lower your grade level score, but still well-written, the better.

paulguy




msg:4396431
 7:10 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I would also add to this that if you're writing for an international crowd, which may include many people who speak English as a second language (a really fast-growing segment of the world population), avoid phrasal verbs and idioms.

ex. phrasal verbs: sign up, go over (Usually a regular verb with a preposition attached. These don't exist in most other languages and can be confusing.) In the case of these two verbs, I would replace with 'register' and 'review'.

lucy24




msg:4396438
 7:22 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Meta-test: Take some random pages and feed them into one of the readability evaluators. See if the results match your gut feeling about which pages are harder and easier. I tried it and was reassured to see that the pages which are intended to be more readable come out that way on the tests too. But watch out for words the test doesn't know, because they'll skew the results. Like, say, a travel article about expressions to avoid in assorted countries ;)

JAB Creations




msg:4396475
 11:05 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't publish articles on my blog until I've been able to fully proof-read it without any second-takes. You should always write for your target audience. If you need to use an uncommon complex word make sure it's context is clear for users without them having to look it up and don't constantly reuse it otherwise it looks unnatural and therefor unprofessional. If someone has a lower reading level they should still be able to read what you've written and be able to infer your more advanced intentions from the basic construct of what you have written.

So ultimately try to write using base low-level constructs that are emphasized by moderate-to-higher constructs and your point in your writing will be "felt" if not outright understood.

- John

Leosghost




msg:4396478
 11:32 pm on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Everyone here does realise that "grade level" means nothing to anyone outside North America ? ( unless we look it up ) because not all school systems use "grades" ( as in : 1st grade or 5th grade etc ), most education systems use "reading age" levels, as in "reading level of average 12 year old" etc ..( what "grade" would a 12 year old be in ? ) or the equivalent in their society or language, and this is WebmasterWorld ..

If we are talking about keeping things "jargon free" and accessible to all visitors wherever they may be from, making assumptions about their understanding of...

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

is ironic, in the context of the thread and the OP ;-)..

As ken_b hinted at, if your reader has to ( as I did ) leave your page and go searching on another site to find out what your "jargon" meant..you've lost them ..maybe for ever..wikipedia can suck you in :)

tangor




msg:4396485
 12:34 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

English is a language. Any language has its levels of readability. The tests indicated above are for English and benchmarked against general (school) levels of English. Within the concept of readability the tests are very useful in determining clarity for projected target audiences.

tangor




msg:4396487
 12:47 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

A listing of available reading level formulas, and different languages supported, with examples of how the formulas work.

[ideosity.com...]

daveVk




msg:4396489
 12:58 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Do search engines actually use this to evaluate the quality of the content on the page?


Google has "Reading Level" tool

Results by reading level for site: webmasterworld.com:
Basic 33%
Intermediate 64%
Advanced 3%

Leosghost




msg:4396501
 1:36 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

English is a language. Any language has its levels of readability.

Agreed :) But my point is that if one uses "scales" or "grades" or any other country or cultural ( in this case North American school system ) "specific" ways of speaking about the "levels" or readability ..

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


ie; I ( as a non US American ) have to go off this thread ( on an International forum, visited by many non English "mother tongue" speakers ) to find out what you are talking about..

Apparently ken_b ( I don't know where ken is based ? ) also had no idea what these "Readability Formula Grades" you mentioned were all about, and no idea whether a high or a low score was better or worse..I suspect many of the threads readers have had to search outside WebmasterWorld to find out, which means they left the thread ..would you send them away from your site ? a simple "lower score is better" or whatever, as a note to the post, would have prevented losing many of us, you did eventually explain in your 3rd post, by then I suspect you had lost many of us to the links in wikipedia :)..**Basically your initial post did exactly what it said one should not do ..

It defeats your stated object..your opening post was only "readable" ( because of using terms specific to your country and culture ) by those members who live in North America ..unless we went off site to find out what your references meant..sending us off site again in your post in reply to me ..

A listing of available reading level formulas, and different languages supported, with examples of how the formulas work.

[ideosity.com...]


Is, with respect, only digging the hole you began in your original post deeper..:)

What you call readability, and keeping one's website "readable" surely means not sending readers searching off site to find out what one is talking about :)..one would surely aim to keep them on site and only have them leave to visit either another page of the site , click a "buy" button, an affiliate link or click an ad ..

It would have been much simpler, in my opinion, to have said simply , "make sure that your sites can be read by the average 10 to 12 year old, if they are aimed at a general audience" and "not all of your visitors have English* as first language, bear that in mind when writing, and avoid using vocabulary and references which are specific to your own culture, if you have to use "jargon", explain it, simply, at the time"..

*If your site is not in English, that "guidance" still applies, just replace English with your target audiences language ..

**Always the way ..like when we post about checking spelling and grammar and then make spelling or grammatical mistakes in the post ..it's known as "Murphy's law" in many places..and I often make the same mistakes :)

tangor




msg:4396509
 2:37 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

It defeats your stated object..your opening post was only "readable" ( because of using terms specific to your country and culture ) by those members who live in North America ..unless we went off site to find out what your references meant..sending us off site again in your post in reply to me ..


Stated object has been achieved... discussing the specifics of each of these tests within the limits of WW would have occupied immense time... whereas mentioning the subject, providing some input into possible value, did send those interested to more capable sites on the subject and probably in their own language if English is not native.

And answering "lower is better" might not be appropriate for some topics/subjects. Again, this thread has always been about writing to a targeted audience.

As for losing the audience here... seems to be fairly active. :)

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