Save Your $5 Words for the Academics
Ever since you got out of high school, you have known that the way readers perceive your writing is every bit as important as what you have to say. Political writers and medical experts alike may be surprised to learn that readers comprehend far less than they expected. This is why you want to take advantage of tools like Flesch-Kincaid, to assess your content’s readability for a target audience. With these tips, you can use Flesch-Kincaid strategically to ensure that you are not alienating readers by using terminology that exceeds their comprehension.
Flesch-Kincaid is a readability index with two scores indicating grade level and reading ease. The first score gives an approximate assessment of the grade level of reading comprehension that readers would need to have in order to understand the piece. The second score shows how quickly readers can get through the piece. These two scores are determined by the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of the work. For example, content with a reading index of 5 and a reading ease score of 90 could be fairly easily understood by an 11-year-old.
Why Do Flesch-Kincaid Scores Matter?
Although you are probably already aware of a rough average of the Flesch-Kincaid scores of your work, you may not quite appreciate the importance of those rankings. Readability affects how easily your audience can understand the text you give them. As such, you should target your Flesch-Kincaid scores to the type of audience you target. If you write a blog post for the general population about selecting the right Vitamin D supplement, you should aim for greater readability than if you are writing for doctors about Vitamin D metabolism in rodents.
Readability is Key
At this point, you might conclude that the relevance of a particular score only relates to the expected education level of the audience. While this is partially true, you must also factor in the fact that many high-school graduates do not read very well. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that 43 percent of Americans have a basic grasp of reading, or cannot read at all. Just 13 percent of Americans are considered proficient in reading, and almost all of them have been to college. This shows that just because you think your audience should understand an article written at a 13th-grade level does not mean that you are obligated, or even wise, to write that way. Readers crave content that makes complex concepts simple to understand. Merrill Perlman of the Columbia Journalism Review argues that when readers do not comprehend your language, they stop reading. Give them what they want, and they will stick with you.
Your readers want to read, and you have information to share. It is a simple thing that can be shockingly complex to achieve. When you keep your tone and language at an easy level, based on the Flesch-Kincaid score, you demonstrate that you have a better grasp of the needs of your audience.