MS Word: readability statistics

May 25, 2010

Microsoft Word provides you with readability statistics that give you a rough impression on how easily readable your story is. Here’s how you activate it:

In MS Word 2003:

  • click “tools”
  • click “options”
  • choose the “spelling and grammar” tab
  • select “check grammar with spelling”
  • check “show readability statistics”

In MS Word 2007:

  • Click on the Windows button (top left corner)
  • click “word options”
  • click “proofing”
  • select “check grammar with spelling”
  • check “show readability statistics”

In MS Word 2010:

  • click “file”
  • click “options”
  • click “proofing”
  • select “check grammar with spelling”
  • check “show readability statistics”

After you run a spell/grammar check, readability statistics will be displayed.

The statistics will let you know your average number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word. It also gives you the percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Reading Ease, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

The Flesch Reading Ease score measures how easy or difficult your text is to understand. 90-100 would mean that an 11-year-old kid could easily understand your text. 60-70 means a 13-15-year-old can understand the text, and 0-30 is best understood by university graduates.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test lets you know the US school grade level readers need to understand your text. A score of 7 means a seventh grader should be able to understand it.

For example, this blog post has 20% passive sentences (“statistics will be displayed”), a Flesch Reading Ease score of 50.8, and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 10.8. The first draft of Hidden Truths has 1% passive sentences, a Flesch Reading Ease score of 87.7, and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 3.9, which means even a child could read it.

Well, except for the more explicit scenes, of course 🙂



  1. You’re trying to kill me, right?

    • I swear I got no murderous intent 🙂

      • When I started writing I had that vision of me, sitting on a desk, looking out at the ocean, playing with characters, writing down these wonderful and rich stories. And maybe there was even a glass of red wine and some candlelight involved…
        Little did I know back then.
        There’s no ocean nearby, characters are playing hide and seek with me – and I hardly ever drink anymore 🙂
        But there are all those rules and suggestions and the Chicago Manual of Style and I don’t know what…
        Somehow writing isn’t what I imagined it to be 😉

  2. Ah, this discussion brings back memories.

    When I was in college, the professors in my journalism classes stressed writing to reading levels as a part of publication norms… at the time it was to aim for 8th grade (age 13-14), because that was the expected education level of 80% of the American newspaper-reading population.

    I worked my ‘norm’ down to that level over time, but my first drafts tended naturally toward a 10th-12th grade level depending on the content and intent. The edits were usually to simplify sentence structure. I do use ‘college’ words from time to time, but apparently sentence structure — simplicity is the key! — is more important to grade level evaluation.

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