I recently ran across a cool way to check whether my writing is readable. The tip comes from Ross Gubberman’s book Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates.
I was unaware that Microsoft Word has a feature that measures the readibility of Word documents. Word generates a readibility report that is based on the Flesch–Kincaid readability test. Wikipedia describes that test as a measurement “designed to indicate comprehension difficulty when reading a passage of contemporary academic English.”
A Flesch reading ease score ranges from 0 to 100, with a higher score being a better score.
Guberman explains what kind of scores you need to write a brief like one of the Nation’s top advocates. You should aim for a Flesch reading ease score of over 30 for legal briefs and over 40 for communications with clients. In addition, you should shoot for less than 27 average words per sentence and less than 20% of your writing in the passive voice–also things that Word will run a report on.
To run a report, go the Word Options and then the Proofing tab. Under the heading that says “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word,” you will see a box labeled “Show readability statistics.” Check that box. Then simply run a spelling and grammar check. Once you’ve completed the check, Word will give you a reability report. Then you can compare your scores to the benchmarks suggested by Guberman.
Pretty cool, huh?!!!