Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

MS Word Tip II: What's Your Reading Level?

Ever see this before?  If your a writer and a MS Word user, you should've.  If you are and you've never used it, now's your chance!

To get it to appear, you have to set up the preference under SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.  You should see a check box for READABILITY STATISTICS.  Check that box.

This box appears after you do a spell check, and there are several great points of information presented.

1)  The Word Count.  Everyone needs that for queries, questions and general tracking.  I actually use it on a chapter by chapter basis to ensure no chapter is too long without some pause.

2)  Passive Sentences.  How great is that?  The only problem with MS Word is that there isn't an easy way to find the passive sentences.  It can get pretty maddening.  Again, I do it on a chapter by chapter basis so I can at least narrow down where the passive sentence may be.

3)  Flesch Reading Ease - I won't bore you with the detailed formulas, but it's suffice to say that the RE translates into the Grade Level below.  Now, there's a few things to keep in mind when looking at the grade level.

  • The percentage is roughly the percentage of the American population that would understand your writing.  The grade level is obviously the grade level and above that would understand your writing.
  • While I'm no expert, I would venture to say that for fiction, the FRE should be LOWER than the grade you're targeting, but not too much, and obviously not higher.  For example, Green Eggs and Ham scored at a -1.3 grade level.  Way too simple for middle grade and above, but perfect for beginner readers and picture books.  Harvard Business School scores at about 30%, WAY too complicated for Middle Grade and really anyone without a PhD.  
  • So, depending on your work, watch the readability.  I don't have any other examples, but I'd be willing to be even the best adult fiction scores in at no more than 8th grade level.  Why?  Because to reach a mass audience you have to cater to the lowest common denominator, and not everyone has a college degree.  As for kids, it's even more important.  Kids don't want to read a fiction story and have to look up every fourth word, even if it was a vocabulary word they should know.  They want to be entertained.
Hope this helps.  Any thoughts?  Examples?  I'd love to hear them...


  1. This is a great tip. I've set it up and will use it.

    For some reason, it doesn't show the stats until I go through the entire document once, which can be tedious if you just want a quick check.

    But overall, it's a fantastic feature.

  2. Yeah, good point, Mary. Actually, if you highlight a certain section and do a spell check on the selection, you'll get the same results. You could spell check a single sentence and get the results for just that sentence. Make sense?


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