When producing content for online readers, you don't want to fall into the trap of writing too much. And you don't want to over-complicate things, either.

Ideally, you want to pitch your content at the correct level for your online audience. While that seems easy enough to do, content providers often throw a bad ball.

The average online reader has the approximate reading level of an eighth-grade student. All well and good, but how do you ensure your writing is at the correct level

This is where reading level calculators come in.

What is a reading level calculator?

A reading level calculator uses a variety of elements to determine the reading level of the text. These elements can include:

  • the number of sentences in the piece
  • the number of words used in the piece as a whole
  • the number of syllables. Calculated as an average based on the number of words
  • the number of unusual words used in the content. Including, industry standard words, unusual
  • phrasing and other unfamiliar words
  • the number of polysyllabic words used in the piece

The calculator then places those elements into their unique algorithm. Producing a readability score that for the writing.

In some cases, URLs or files are inserted into the tool. In that case, they collect the copy from that URL. Or extract the text from the page or file, then score it according to their algorithm.

score of 6 is is the average reading level that most people look for when they’re producing online content. This is the level that the average grade school student is able to handle.

Although, In the case of some higher-level materials a higher score may be appropriate.

What's the best tool for scoring readability?

There are plenty of tools on the market that will help determine the readability of a specific piece of text. Due to the minnor difference between the tests, you don't have to choose a specific one.

Simply, pick the calculator that’s most convenient to your needs. You’ll be able to calculate the reading level of your content.

In other cases, readability vary widely based on the tool you’ve chosen to use. Choosing the right tool for your industry is critical to ensuring an accurate readability score. One that reflects the reading level you need for your content.

Student accuracy. Students, in particular, need written content that's focussed on their needs. When they read content written above their reading level, they may struggle. They're unable to absorb the actual value of the content. Due to confusing language, words they don’t understand, or jargon.

In the case of student texts, assessing oral readability is almost as important. This ensures students will be able to accurately absorb and retain the information presented in the piece.

The Dale Chall test is most commonly used to assess the reading level of student content.

Healthcare accuracy. It’s vital that the average patient can understand the instructions they’re given.

Whether producing a healthcare website or printed instructions, the information you’re giving has to be easily understood.

In some cases, healthcare information may need to include longer words. Such as medications, or jargon words for treatments and exercises.

Since these words and phrases should have been described to the patient during the treatment process, they’re measured differently.

In this case, the SMOG index performs with the highest level of accuracy.

Financial disclosures. People are rightly concerned with their finances. When they receive information, they want to understand it.

Not only that, inaccurate or unreadable financial information can lead to legal liability.

In the case of financial information, the FOG test is most commonly used for analysis.

What do reading level calculators do?

Reading level calculators produce an easy to read score that allows you to assess your content. You then determine whether or not it is appropriate for your average reader.

If it’s the wrong level, time to get out the red pen and do some editing.

Many calculators will also tell you why they assigned a specific score.

  • did you use too many long words?
  • is your average sentence too long?
  • do you try to cram paragraphs full of as much information as possible? Bullet points are far easier to scan.

Reading level calculators help you better assess the content you’ve created. They give you a better understanding of your content. And they allow you to see it through the eyes of your target audience.

If you’re producing content, but aren’t sure your readers get it. A reading level calculator is one of the best ways for you to see your content as others will.

Add readability scoring to your editing process to create clearer content. Content that is of greater value to your readers, and your revenue growth.

Dave Child

Dave is the founder of Readable and has been building websites since the early 90s. He’s one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.