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katiemac
09-10-2006, 10:43 PM
In the past, I've always ignored the Flesch-Kincaid reading levels Word provides because, let's face it, it's not a very good tool.

This semester I'm matched up with a professor who pretty much swears by it (not a fiction professor, at least) and wants it and other Word measurements included with our final drafts. I'm basically banging my head on the desk, but there's not too much I can do about it at this point.

Anyway, we're also supposed to be aiming for a specific reading level. Almost always I'm writing way above that level, but I'm certain it's picking up more on my style. I don't think the writing is as difficult as it suggests.

Is anyone really familiar with what this measures so I can skirt the system? Shorter sentences, word choice, etc..?

Many thanks in advance...

TrainofThought
09-11-2006, 06:10 AM
Hi Katie,

I tend to have problems with this reading level. I avoid simple writing, which tends to upset the flow of the story, but I write the way I want to write and tweak for easy flow. Anyways, today I edited words and shortened sentences by deleting words, which boosted the score. I'm not getting obsessed with it, but it seems you have no choice. I don't know if you looked up the Readability Scores in Word, but this is what it shows for the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Score:

Rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.
The formula for the Flesch Reading Ease score is:
206.835 (1.015 x ASL) (84.6 x ASW) where:
ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences)
ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)

Good Luck and hope this helps.

Jamesaritchie
09-11-2006, 05:34 PM
In the past, I've always ignored the Flesch-Kincaid reading levels Word provides because, let's face it, it's not a very good tool.

This semester I'm matched up with a professor who pretty much swears by it (not a fiction professor, at least) and wants it and other Word measurements included with our final drafts. I'm basically banging my head on the desk, but there's not too much I can do about it at this point.

Anyway, we're also supposed to be aiming for a specific reading level. Almost always I'm writing way above that level, but I'm certain it's picking up more on my style. I don't think the writing is as difficult as it suggests.

Is anyone really familiar with what this measures so I can skirt the system? Shorter sentences, word choice, etc..?

Many thanks in advance...

Flesch-Kincaid is an exceptionhally good tool, and it isn't merely a function of a word processor. It was around long before word processors were invented, and it's still used the world over for all sorts of purposes. Many agnecies of the government use it, education systems use it, business uses it, and it works very well.

If you're writing way above the reading level your professor is telling you to write, you almost certainly need to tone it down a notch or two.

Simple writing is always the best writing. Writing is about communication, not about being fancy. Hemingway wrote at grade level four. Poe at about grade level five. King also writes at five to six.

Ray Bradbury is considered an absolute master of the English language. His writing flows, jumps, twists, turns, and is always unexpected. It's beautiful. And yet his book "Zen in the Art of writing" a beautifully written book, checks in at grade level 3.74

Check the grade level of pretty much any writer you care to name, and it always comes in at a low grade level. This is as it should be.

Writing should alway sbe as simple as it can be, while still doing teh job it's supposed to do. One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is trying to sound like a writer. Good writing is invisible. It allows the reader to see, hear, and feel the content without getting in the way. To write well, write simply.

Invisible writing: http://www.williamgtapply.com/iw.html

Bk_30
09-12-2006, 12:16 AM
Is that article stickied? very informative. Thank you for the link jamesartichie.

katiemac
09-12-2006, 01:17 AM
I'm well aware about writing at the 3-4 grade levels. Unfortunately, those levels aren't the ones in which I've been asked to write.

The ASW is where I think I'm getting stuck--I'm required to use some technical vocabulary, for example, and when I replace those terms with simpler synonyms with less syllables I'm much closer to the required grade level.

I also know that I tend to write longer sentences, I've known for years, so it's nice to know the program measures those. I'll work on those first. Good article on invisibility, though, so thanks for passing that along.

Sandi LeFaucheur
09-12-2006, 02:59 AM
I use FK at work when making techni-speak user-friendly. One document, supposedly written from the general public, was written at grade 22.4! I didn't even know 22.4 existed. I got it down to grade 7.8, which I thought was pretty darned good. Katiemac, with technical jargon, I'll be surprised if you get it down to grade 4. And sometimes technical terms are needed, depending on your audience.

Jamesaritchie
09-12-2006, 08:13 AM
I'm well aware about writing at the 3-4 grade levels. Unfortunately, those levels aren't the ones in which I've been asked to write.

The ASW is where I think I'm getting stuck--I'm required to use some technical vocabulary, for example, and when I replace those terms with simpler synonyms with less syllables I'm much closer to the required grade level.

I also know that I tend to write longer sentences, I've known for years, so it's nice to know the program measures those. I'll work on those first. Good article on invisibility, though, so thanks for passing that along.

Technical jargon almost always raises the grade level, and sometimes technical jargon is needed. The idea is to always use the best word for teh job. Sometimes the technical word is the best one.

But the best test is to write something, and then have three or four or five people from its intended audience read it. If they find it difficult to read, or difficult to understand, it needs rewritten.

Soccer Mom
09-12-2006, 07:54 PM
Thanks for the link. I love William G. Tapply. He writes some of the best dialogue ever. (IMHO)

maestrowork
09-14-2006, 12:25 AM
Lots of dialogue will significantly lower your F-K score. As will short, simple sentences and active voice.

LloydBrown
09-14-2006, 12:51 AM
The ASW is where I think I'm getting stuck
Anti-Submarine Warfare?