Readability

Out of curiosity, I looked up some information about readability and found a Brit-based calculator using the “new” SMOG reading formula. I ran Syncope chapter 1.10 and came up with these statistics:

The SMOG index: 14.6
Total words: 8317
Total number of polysyllabic words: 850
Total number of sentences: 656

The page goes on to say that “(a)s a rough indication, SMOG 9-10 = Entry Level 3, 11-12 = Level 1 and 13-14 = Level 2 but that it’s far from an exact science and SMOG should only be taken as one indicator among many for the suitability of a text.” So 14.6 is around “Level 2.” The interpretation from LiteracyTrust.org.uk indicates that Level 2 tops off this British scale, but I don’t know how this compares to American scales. According to these sites, chapter 1.10 has a readability level between the British newspapers The Sun and The Daily Express, but since I don’t read those newspapers, I have no idea what that means. (Ha!)

In another readability calculator that covers different formulae that do convert to US grade level estimates, the scores for chapter 1.10 are as follows:

  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 75.50 (A higher score indicates easier readability; scores go from 0 to 100.)
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 5.90
  • Gunning-Fog Score 8.10
  • Coleman-Liau Index 9.70
  • SMOG Index * 6.70 (This is probably the old SMOG formula)
  • Automated Readability Index 5.40
  • Average Grade Level 7.16 (Excludes Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score.)

A Wikipedia citation states:

Nearly all of today’s blockbuster writers write at the 7th-grade level, including John Grisham, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Dan Brown. Experts today recommend writing legal and health information at the 7th-grade level. Laws often require writing medical and safety information at the 5th-grade level.

Hmmm, so it looks like my 1.10 results hit that U.S. 7th grade “sweet spot.” Of course, all these mathematical formulae are largely quantitative approximations and say nothing qualitative, but it’s still interesting (especially that there are so many different methods).

Anyway, I plugged in my rough draft of chapter 1.11 (only half finished) and got these scores:

  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 71.90
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.10
  • Gunning-Fog Score 7.90
  • Coleman-Liau Index 10.10
  • SMOG Index 7.10
  • Automated Readability Index 5.20
  • Average Grade Level 7.28

I noticed that shorter excerpts ended up getting scored higher. For example a 1.11 flashback sequence ended up getting an overall 10.28 readability score as opposed to the half-draft; an even shorter excerpt of the same flashback got a 12.30, and one sentence in the excerpt got a 20.54. Curious! I guess it’s an artifact of the mathematics.

Back to the point, though–chapter 1.11 is proceeding right along.

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