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