Make Your Documents Readable

28 October 2010



  Image by malias


Word count:  335

Estimated reading time:  3 minutes


How easy is it to understand your documents?


In Business Writing with TASTE, I mentioned two places to check a document’s readability. One is Microsoft Word’s ‘Spelling and Grammar’ tool. And the other one is at the Blue Centauri Consulting website.


(By the way, if you haven’t downloaded your free copy of Business Writing with TASTE, you can get it by signing up to receive my weekly blogposts here.)


Both these tools give you valuable information about the readability of documents you write. This includes the average length of sentences, the percentage of passive voice sentences and the overall reading ease. They also indicate the reader’s required education level to understand the text after reading it once.


We’ve talked about many of these issues in previous posts. For example, it’s best to write sentences that average 15-20 words long. Each sentence should cover only one idea. And active voice offers a double benefit: the text will be more engaging to the reader, and you’ll probably make fewer grammar mistakes.


For writing to be considered ‘plain English’, the reading ease score that you get from the readability tools should be 60 or above. And you should aim to write for a person in US grade 8 or 9 (Form 2 or 3).


New readability tool with more

I’ve just heard about another online tool that provides scores on all of the above – plus one more very useful thing.


The document readability tool at will also suggest which sentences from your text that you should rewrite to improve their readability. That makes it easier for you to focus on only the sentences that need work.


Give it a try

The next time you write something, cut and paste the text into any of the readability tools above. They’re all free of charge, and you’ll get instant feedback on how easy that document will be for your readers to understand.


Let us know in the comments what you’ve learned about your writing, and what you like (or dislike) about the tools.


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