Writing high quality articles has never been more important. Relevant content is one thing. Content that is suitable for readers, especially in the language used, is another. This is the reason why, when we write for the web, we are committed to taking care of the tone, and above all the form. After all, reading on screen is not the same as reading on paper …

We will agree on the following few widely used good practices.

  • An airy text, with paragraphs which do not exceed 6 lines and a sufficient space between each line;
  • Favor short sentences and simple or short words;
  • Use language the reader understands, with jargon if necessary.

Until then, nothing new under the sun you say.

The Flesch readability score

draper-readability-chart Across the Atlantic, there is a matrix which determines the ease of reading a text. Very practical for web writing Developed by Rudolf Flesh, a consultant in readability and doctor in English, the readability score is based on principles of psychology.

When you read, your eyes and mind focus on a series of steps on the page. Whenever this happens, the mind makes a provisional judgment of what the words mean up to that point. Only when we arrive at punctuation (comma, period, paragraph break, etc.), the mind stops for a fraction of a second, accumulates ideas, and interprets the final meaning of the sentence or paragraph. The longer the sentence, the more the reader is held in suspense until the final interpretation of what the words mean. It means more mental work for the reader.

The Flesh formula counts words and syllables to measure the mental effort required to understand the text. For example, a mainstream advertisement would score 82 while the terms of an insurance policy would score 10, on a scale of 0 to 100.

I obviously took part in the exercise for this article, which has been reworked many times to improve the readability score. In its final version, the article obtains a score of 49.7.

A feature in Microsoft’s Word software (in the English version) precisely allows the readability of the text to be determined using this matrix. Otherwise, the readability-score.com site does our job very well.

The interest of such a tool is to be able to measure the readability of a text. Even if this diagram does not necessarily adapt to the language of Molière, English having a different structure, we could imagine using this model with a weighting that would take into account our language.

You who write on the web, what do you think of such a tool?