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Testing the Readability of Your Blog

Juicy Studio’s Readability Test is an interesting tool to test your blog’s readability.

It’s more than just a test for keywords. It puts a page from your blog through a variety of tests that is, frankly, rather amazing. The content on your page is run through several reading level algorithms which test your content for a variety of factors and generate statistical information to help you evaluate how readable your content is. The tests include the Gunning-Fog Index, Flesch Reading Ease, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

The readability of your content is based upon how easy it is to read and at what grade level of education a person would expect to have completed in order to understand what is written. The tests are designed for the United States educational system, but could be applied internationally.

Newspapers used to be written in the United States for a 6th grade level. When that theory was developed, there were many immigrants and farming and industrial communities within the United States where the average person left school between the 6th and 10th grade to go to work. Today, the majority of people in the United States have graduated from high school (12th grade), and have at least 2 years of college or vocational training, though it isn’t an overwhelming majority. Yet, most newspapers today still aim for the 6th to 10th grade levels.

If you are reading your local newspaper, odds are that it is aimed for the 6th to 8th grade reader. If you are reading the Wall Street Journal, the reading level is much higher, aimed at college level reading. The editors aim for their audience’s reading level, not the statistical average of everyone in the country.

Should a blog, like a newspaper, have a unwritten rule to be written at a specific reading level? I don’t think so. Just as different books, magazines, and newspapers now write for their audience, taking their readability and educational level into account, so should a blogger.

The readability of your blog’s content should be aimed at your audience. If you are writing your personal journal and opinions about your day-to-day life as a teenager, the words should reflect your audience’s ability to read, which is most likely other teenagers. If your blog is writing about the technical aspects of finite stress analysis and structural engineering, it is definitely more likely that your blog’s audience will have at least four years of college under the belt and possibly a master’s degree.

Determining at which reading level to write can be tricky. Writing under the readability level of your audience can hurt. While it may help to simplify your words in order for people to understand what you are talking about, if your average audience reader is of a higher reading level, they can feel insulted and easily dismiss your content. Writing above your readers reading level can make you look arrogant and pompous.

You might not be thinking about the reading skills of your audience, but now is your chance. This readability test is a good way to find out how you are writing and who you are writing to.

Understanding the Readability Tests

It has been a very long time since my English classes at University, so I had to do some research to determine what these readability test results meant. It’s not a perfect science but it will give you some information about your blog’s readability. Here is a synopsis:

  • Gunning-Fog Index: An estimate of the number of school years it takes for someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more easily understood the content. The higher the number, the more education is required to understand the content. Since 12 years is to high school graduation and 16 or 17 includes a 4 year college graduation, anything beyond 17 is considered post-graduate levels.
  • Flesch Reading Ease: Represents an index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. Higher scores means higher readability and easier comprehension. For example, a 70 would be more readable by the majority of people than a 20.
  • Flesch-Kincaid grade level: Another test that determines the number of years of school required to read the content, like the Gunning-Fog index. It just uses a different method to get there, which could result in negative numbers, which are reported as zero, and numbers over twelve are reported as twelve, focusing on high school levels.

So I’m curious. Take the test and see what it has to say about your blog and tell us about it. If you are familiar with these readability tests, and I haven’t explained it well, tell us more about what you know.

I recommend you submit and test the front page URL/address of your blog first. Most blogs feature more than one post on the front page, and this will give you a better overall judgment of the readability of your entire blog. If your web page design uses excerpts or only a couple posts, run this test through 5 or more of your posts on various subjects to get a better estimate of the overall writing style you use on your blog.

Note: Mandarine has taken these tests one step further and tested the tests for readability. Check it out to see what you think about her tests of the readability tests.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

34 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2006 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    My results were:

    Summary Value
    Total sentences 378
    Total words 2019
    Average words per Sentence 5.34
    Words with 1 Syllable 1304
    Words with 2 Syllables 453
    Words with 3 Syllables 216
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 46
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 12.98%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.51
    Gunning Fog Index 7.33
    Flesch Reading Ease 73.95
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.27

    I’m really not sure what this says about anything, to tell the truth, as I rarely think about the literacy levels of my readership and don’t consider this factor to be meaningful when I create posts. I figure that blogs are rather self-filtering in this regard; if you like my content and can read me, you’ll stick around, but if my writing style or level just “isn’t you”, there are plenty of blogs out there for you.

    Does it really matter how many polysyllabic words I use to deliberately obfuscate my prose? I dunno…. Good grammar, spell chekcing and content are of more inportance to me personally (grin).

    Besides, in blogs, we rarely write in the same way as we would if writing a dissertation or even a magazine article. Blogs have their own nuances and rhythms. I think they’re a genre all their own….

  2. Posted July 13, 2006 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    mine is chinese blog, the readability is…

    Summary Value
    Total sentences 228
    Total words 520
    Average words per Sentence 2.28
    Words with 1 Syllable 342
    Words with 2 Syllables 107
    Words with 3 Syllables 45
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 26
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 13.65%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.53
    Gunning Fog Index 6.37
    Flesch Reading Ease 75.18
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 3.34

  3. Posted July 13, 2006 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    From WTJ’s remark, I gather that spelling and grammar have nothing to do whatsoever with the above tests. Or the tests are smart enough to tell us that it takes 6.37 years of chinese school to read WTJ’s blog (which I readily admit would be a minimum for me).

  4. Posted July 13, 2006 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    w00t! Another cool ‘toy’! Here’s the results for mine:

    Total sentences – 686
    Total words – 5153
    Average words per Sentence – 7.51
    Words with 1 Syllable – 3400
    Words with 2 Syllables – 1148
    Words with 3 Syllables – 436
    Words with 4 or more Syllables – 169
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables – 11.74%
    Average Syllables per Word – 1.49
    Gunning Fog Index – 7.70
    Flesch Reading Ease – 73.12
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade – 4.93

    None too shabby, in my opinion.

  5. Nobodyknows
    Posted July 13, 2006 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Total sentences 543
    Total words 5878
    Average words per Sentence 10.83
    Words with 1 Syllable 4076
    Words with 2 Syllables 1205
    Words with 3 Syllables 417
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 180
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 10.16%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.44
    Gunning Fog Index 8.39
    Flesch Reading Ease 74.13
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.61

  6. Posted July 13, 2006 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    My results were:

    Gunning Fog Index 8.67
    Flesch Reading Ease 70.82
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.70

    Which I thought was kind of low, since my site’s rather technical. Interesting, though.

  7. Posted July 13, 2006 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I used my main blog, technomom.com, which didn’t do too badly.

    Total sentences 488
    Total words 4497
    Average words per Sentence 9.22
    Words with 1 Syllable 3099
    Words with 2 Syllables 876
    Words with 3 Syllables 357
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 165
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 11.61%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.46
    Gunning Fog Index 8.33
    Flesch Reading Ease 73.66
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.27

  8. Posted July 13, 2006 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    7.59…me moron?Summary Value
    Total sentences 356
    Total words 3100
    Average words per Sentence 8.71
    Words with 1 Syllable 2216
    Words with 2 Syllables 566
    Words with 3 Syllables 225
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 93
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 10.26%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.42
    Gunning Fog Index 7.59
    Flesch Reading Ease 78.06
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.54

  9. Posted July 13, 2006 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like we’re all pretty similar — not too far from Mark Twain, the Bible and TV Guide. Thanks so much for this very interesting post and link, Lorelle!

  10. Posted July 13, 2006 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle as a good writer ( not only flattering here ), what do you think of my results? I’ll concentrate on the Gunning Fog Index.

    On my entrance page which contains Swedish and English posts I get a GFI of 8.32, comparable to Readers Digest – Oh my ;)

    On my “Tech Stuff” category, which is written entirely in English, I get a GFI of 9.62 “Most popular novels” touching on “Time, Newsweek”.

    Is that good?

  11. Posted July 13, 2006 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Interesting question, Petit. Is it good? Well, it depends. If it matches your expectations for your audience, then it’s perfect. If it is too low, then that’s something to consider. If it is too high, then that’s something else to consider.

    As for posts with non-English text, I don’t believe that’s a fair test of the readability tests. I’m sure that skews things, but I’ve not tested it.

    So what have you all learned from doing this test? Will it change how you write in the future?

  12. Posted July 13, 2006 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Coolness!!

    Does this mean I’m readable…but not “subscribable”?

    Summary Value
    Total sentences 334
    Total words 2145
    Average words per Sentence 6.42
    Words with 1 Syllable 1429
    Words with 2 Syllables 444
    Words with 3 Syllables 169
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 103
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 12.68%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.51
    Gunning Fog Index 7.64
    Flesch Reading Ease 72.69
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.72

  13. Posted July 13, 2006 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I picked one of my longest post to help negate the navigation and got:
    Gunning Fog Index 12.55
    Flesch Reading Ease 52.51
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 9.17

    On average it seems they run about:
    Gunning Fog Index 10 – 13
    Flesch Reading Ease 50 – 70
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 7 – 10

    If anything this is a bit annoying, I used to write things that would have a 30 and 12 on the Flesch scales.

  14. Posted July 13, 2006 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    In answer to your question, Lorelle, no, this won’t change the way I write. Really, it was quite reassuring. I liked knowing that my writing isn’t that hard to navigate. In the end, I suspect that words like readable and accessible don’t necessarily mean the writing is unsophisticated or uninteresting but rather describe writing that welcomes a variety of people. And that’s what I’d like to do — I’d like to reach the reader who’s curious about ideas and beauty, has a sense of humor and can be as courteous and kind online as their mothers expected them to be when they were growing up. That includes a diverse group of people, from many continents, speaking many different languages, much to my delight.

  15. Posted July 14, 2006 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    I found this a really useful excercise and blogged about it myself. I hope you don’t mind my stealing a couple of sentences.

    It probably won’t change the way I write, but it will be in my mind when I write.

  16. Posted July 14, 2006 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Very interesting Lorelle as I am always trying to make it as easy as possible for visitors to understand what I am writing about so that they can move on quickly to the next blog. My results are..

    Total sentences 186
    Total words 1443
    Average words per Sentence 7.76
    Words with 1 Syllable 938
    Words with 2 Syllables 342
    Words with 3 Syllables 125
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 38
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 11.30%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.49
    Gunning Fog Index 7.62
    Flesch Reading Ease 72.97
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.01

  17. Posted July 14, 2006 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Cool new toy. I took it out for a spin and here’s what I came up with on the for the Front Page URL of my blog.

    Total sentences 83
    Total words 398
    Average words per Sentence 4.80
    Words with 1 Syllable 254
    Words with 2 Syllables 101
    Words with 3 Syllables 28
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 15
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 10.80%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.51
    Gunning Fog Index 6.24
    Flesch Reading Ease 74.43
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.07

    Looks good to me. Will it change the way I write? I don;t think so. Plus there really isn’t any reason to, If according to the above results, I’m this readable. Now all I have to do is actually find meaningful stuff to write about and get readership up.

  18. Posted July 14, 2006 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Not really. It basically confirms that I’m hitting the level of easy reading I’ve been aiming for.

  19. Posted July 14, 2006 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I ra the test on 5 or so pages of my blog; they all came out pretty close to the stats for my homepage

    Total sentences: 127
    Total words: 1452
    Average words per Sentence: 11.43
    Words with 1 syllable: 960
    Words with 2 syllables: 312
    Words with 3 syllables: 121
    Words with 4 or more syllables: 59
    % of words with 3+ syllables: 12.40%
    Average Syllables per Word: 1.50
    Gunning Fog Index: 9.53
    Flesch Reading Ease: 68.04
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade: 6.61

    I guess that was about what I was hoping for. :)

  20. Posted July 14, 2006 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Readablity? I always feel like the loser, even if I ace a test, which is rare. This being more of a “gage” of how others can percieve what we present…is there one of these tests for artistic merit? One more test to make me feel moronic.

  21. Posted July 15, 2006 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    This test really can’t be taken too seriously, as the site itself points out that sidebar content is included. A long blogroll, short post titles and multiple times and dates are going to push your average words per ‘sentence’ right down.

    I’m quite happy to be told my blog is understandable by a fifth-grader, I’m just not convinced it’s true. I mean, I used the word ‘egregious’ the other day.

  22. Posted July 16, 2006 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Why does it look like everybody takes the results from these obscure algorithms as a trustworthy indicator of a blog’s readability, without asking what is in them ?

    As mentioned by Luminous in Cornell Finch’s blog, and brilliantly shown by WTJ in these comments above, running the tests on non-english blogs gives ok results – this is proof enough that the algorithms are at least ‘garbage-in/garbage-out’, if not worthless altogether.
    The fact that grammar and spelling are left unchecked tells me that the scope of use for these indicators is at most extremely narrow.

    Let’s be honest – I believe these indicators are as worthless as psychology tests you take in women’s magazines. The only thing the Gunning Fox index tells about your blog is how much it scores on the Gunning Fox index – period.

    Pxc ft. Yu grp Ufcu. Thir gtry. Hrteim poru.
    Htf. Guyert. Pos. Hhht.

    Pretty readable huh ?

  23. Posted July 16, 2006 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    The whole purpose of this was to get you thinking about your blog’s audience. Did it?

    The tool is just a test, with admitted flaws, to help you examine the general readability of your blog. If you really want to test it properly, create a couple of straight HTML pages on your site with no sidebar, header, or footer, just examples of your blog posts, and point it towards them. That would give you a clearly more accurate view on whether or not the tests are right.

    If you are thinking about your blog’s audience and readability, then this works. The test is just a tool to get you thinking in that direction.

    As for the issue of non-English, I don’t have access to the algorithms, so why don’t you ask them if it takes spelling and language into account. And look around and see if there are similar tests in different languages. That would be cool!

  24. Posted July 16, 2006 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    If you have a wordpress.org site, there is a plugin you can use to generate this info:

    http://flagrantdisregard.com/wordstats/

    It’s pretty cool. You have to do the save/continue editing thing to see the stats.

  25. Posted July 17, 2006 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I did not mean to be rude. Yes, I believe the tools help one think about readability – but I still do not trust any of the results. In my opinion, short sentences or short words hardly help readability: think about newspaper headlines and how long it often take to grasp the meaning (http://littlecalamity.tripod.com/Text/Newspaper.html). I believe it is the other way around: it is long convoluted sentences and complicated words that hamper readability.

    I will try to gather more information on readability evaluation algorithms and keep you posted on the subject.

  26. Posted July 18, 2006 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Lucky for me I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone finds my blog too difficult to read. :)

  27. Posted July 31, 2006 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    Hmm – the tester page won’t load in Firefox due to a not well-formed XML error. Oh well.

  28. Posted July 31, 2006 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Andyp: I used it in Firefox, as do a lot of other people. Check your WordPress Theme to see if there is an error there and report it through Feedback so it can get fixed. That will help everyone.

  29. Posted July 1, 2007 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Aye. I’ll second dana’s comment about the Word Statistics Plugin. I actually found this article while Googling for said plugin. ;)

    -danny

  30. stokem228
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Aren’t you a teacher? My teacher Mr. Saner, showed us your blog. I just started one, stokem228.wordpress.com Anyway I googled for mine and I got yours.
    P.S. liked the part about a rat’s ass.

  31. Posted January 17, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    @ stokem228:

    Yes, I’m a teacher of adults. Congratulations on your new blog. And thank your teacher for sharing my blog with you and your fellow students.

  32. Posted March 16, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    A copy of our results:

    Readability Results
    The following table contains the readability results for my site.

    Reading Level Results Summary Value
    Total sentences 2144
    Total words 8507
    Average words per Sentence 3.97
    Words with 1 Syllable 5346
    Words with 2 Syllables 1988
    Words with 3 Syllables 672
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 501
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 13.79%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.57
    Gunning Fog Index 7.10
    Flesch Reading Ease 70.12
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.46

    I found this very interesting but really don’t know what to make of any of it. I am a little bit skeptical about how they figure the bible, TV guide and Mark Twain have similar readability though. I’ve never been reading a Mark Twain book and thought ”Gaw! This is like reading the bible!”

    Does anybody know if they analyze the homepage on a site but not ALL the pages combined?

  33. Posted March 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    @ JD from Hoeno:

    It analyzes only the page you give it, not the overall blog content, as far as I remember. I haven’t checked it lately to see if it has been updated with new features.

    So did you learn anything?

  34. Posted November 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    My results were:
    Summary Value
    Total sentences 379
    Total words 1706
    Average words per Sentence 4.50
    Words with 1 Syllable 900
    Words with 2 Syllables 286
    Words with 3 Syllables 214
    Words with 4 or more Syllables 306
    Percentage of word with three or more syllables 30.48%
    Average Syllables per Word 1.96
    Gunning Fog Index 13.99
    Flesch Reading Ease 36.74
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 9.25


8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Via Lorelle on WordPress [en]. [...]

  2. [...] Here’s something interesting, by way of Lorelle. If you’ve ever wondered how hard it is to read your blog, Juicy Studio has devised an answer of sorts — a “readabiity test” for your posts. [...]

  3. [...] Another post courtesy of Lorelle. This one’s not a Blogging Challenge as such, it is a test of the readability of your blog. I’m not going to go into the specifics. Lorelle has done a really good job (as usual!) of explaining so go read the post to get the full gen. [...]

  4. [...] This morning as I was minding my own business, blog surfing I came by this post on Blog Readabilty by Cornell Finch, springing from this post by Lorelle VanFossen. Gez Lemon, owner of Juicy Studio, whose mission is to promote best practice for web developers in a fast moving industry, created Juicy Studio Readability Test to test the readability of your blog or website using a couple of complex algorithms to track how much schooling is required to able to understand all the drivel you’ve written. [...]

  5. [...] In a recent post, Lorelle on WordPress has gathered interesting resources on readability test tools. She invited her readers to have a go with the tools and post the results. So I’m curious. Take the test and see what it has to say about your blog and tell us about it. [...]

  6. A Readability Test

    Lorelle points to an interesting website called Juicy Studio, which has a facility for testing the readability of an electronic document. The main outputs of the test are three scores:

    Gunning-Fog Index: Years of schooling needed to understand the tex…

  7. [...] Los test de legibilidad (readability test) tienen audiencia, aunque no muy nutrida. Consultando alguna de estás páginas, acá, aquí, acullá, se puede indagar un poco en los algoritmos que tomando como puntos de partida variables sintácticas nos indican el grado de dificultad de un texto. Desde el sitio Juicy Studio se pueden conocer tres indicadores (el Gunning-Fog, el Flesch Reading Ease y el Flesch-Kincaid grade level) para evaluar un determinado sitio web o blog con sólo poner su DNS. Como bien se dice en La bitácora del Tigre -que presenta en ese mismo post el plugin de legibilidad para WordPress)- algunos de esos índices no fueron concebidos para el idioma español, aunque la mayoría insista en aceptar su pertinencia para varios idiomas. Aunque estas fórmulas puedan disparar la imaginación de muchos analistas, en general sus usos son complementados por herramientas contextuales para la producción de sentido: dos textos igual de legibles no serán igual de comprensibles, por muchas razones. Sin embargo, a los fines de la producción de contenido estos indicadores pueden adaptarse a los objetivos deseados. (Aunque tal vez eso no sea un algoritmo sino el uso “oblicuo” de uno.) [...]

  8. […] Testing the Readability of Your Blog […]

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