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Readability score is another metric that we use to help our customers understand their content against the SERP.  By analyzing the top 10 or 20 pages, you can quickly see what you need to do to adjust your content to match your competitors.

How is the Readability score calculated?

We use the The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Formula as follows:

Step 1: Calculate the average number of words used per sentence.

Step 2: Calculate the average number of syllables per word.

Step 3: Multiply the average number of words by 0.39 and add it to the average number of syllables per word multiplied by 11.8.

Step 4: Subtract 15.59 from the result.

The specific mathematical formula is:

FKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59


FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid Reading Age

ASL = Average Sentence Length (i.e., the number of words divided by the number of sentences)

ASW = Average number of Syllable per Word (i.e., the number of syllables divided by the number of words)

Analyzing the results is a simple exercise. For instance, a score of 5.0 indicates a grade-school level; i.e., a score of 9.3 means that a ninth grader would be able to read the document. This score makes it easier for teachers, parents, librarians, and others to judge the readability level of various books and texts for the students.

Theoretically, the lowest grade level score could be -3.4, but since there are no real passages that have every sentence consisting of a one-syllable word, it is a highly improbable result in practice.

Here are the scores of some reading materials we’ve tested. These are average scores of random samples.

Comics: 92

Consumer ads in magazines: 82

Movie Screen: 75

Seventeen: 67

Reader’s Digest: 65

Sports Illustrated: 63

New York Daily News: 60

Atlantic Monthly: 57

Time: 52

Newsweek: 50

Wall Street Journal: 43

Harvard Business Review: 43

New York Times: 39

New York Review of Books: 35

Harvard Law Review: 32

Standard auto insurance policy: 10

Here’s how the scores translate into school grades. Reading matter with the score shown on the left side will be easy for students on the level shown on the right.


Flesch-Kincaid Score  School Level

90 to 100 5th grade

80 to 90 6th grade

70 to 80 7th grade

60 to 70 8th and 9th grade

50 to 60 10th to 12th grade (high school)

30 to 50 college

0 to 30 college graduate

Important tips

  1. If you want to rewrite a passage to get a higher score, you’ll have to cut the average sentence length. This means you’ll have to break up long, complex sentences and change them to two, three or four shorter ones. In other words, sprinkle periods over your piece of writing. When you’re turning subordinate clauses into independent sentences, you’ll find that a lot of them will start with And, But or Or. Don’t let that bother you. It’s perfectly good English and has been used for many centuries. The Old Testament says, “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” The New Testament says, “But Jesus gave him no answer.” And Mark Twain wrote, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” So never mind that old superstition. And don’t-please don’t-put unnecessary commas after your And’s, But’s and Or’s.
  1. When it comes to replacing complex words with simple ones, take first aim at words with prefixes and suffixes, like establishment, available or required. Often the best Plain English replacement is a two-word combination like setting up, in stock or called for. If you can’t think of a good substitute, use any good thesaurus or book of synonyms. You’ll find that there’s s no complex, legalistic word that can’t be translated into Plain English.
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