Writing: What Grade is Yours in?


I’m working on a writing project. This one needs to be more mainstream. So, I tested it out for grade level and readability.

While it’s cool to know that I wrote it at the same level that New York Times readers read: 11.5, it’s not so cool that I’m writing for high brow audiences.

Because . . . not everybody’s that intellectual.

And, even if they like a good read, they want that that experience to happen while reading The New York Times, a best seller or their son or daughter’s English paper.

Not my stuff.

Yes, I’m an experienced writer.

Who cares about that if the people who get the material have to slough through it?

You know they won’t. They’ll move on to something else. Like videos or Facebook.

So, I went back to the keyboard. I reread the piece over and over again.

Smoothed transitions, sliced sentences, substituted words and. . . . you’ll have to read the rest of the post to find out what happened.

Because I compose my blog posts in the WordPress interface, I’m not subject to the grammar underlines I get in Word. While this is liberating, it automatically downgrades not just my grade, but my overall writing score – or one would think.

My English teachers would be in shock. OR maybe not, if they saw the test results.

How about you? Do you ever grade your writing?

Tools to Grade Your Writing

When I teach my Enlivened Writing Workshop we talk about tools to tighten, tone and tune up text.

Here are a few tools I used today to calibrate readability.

Readability scores

According to the site, this code was originally released on AddedBytes.com (formerly ILoveJackDaniels.com) in July 2004.

SMOG Simple Measure of Gobbledygook

SMOG was published in 1969 BC [Before Computers] so I made calculating a text’s readability easy by offering an approximate formula — count the words of 3 or more syllables in 3 10-sentence samples, estimate the count’s square root, and add 3, SMOG source

Readability of a Website
Calculate a website’s readability on several scores by entering the URL. For comparison purposes, the site lists this chart.

Fog Index Resources
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader’s Digest
8 – 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 – 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can’t ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up.
Philip Chalmers of Benefit from IT provided the typical Fog Index scores, to help ascertain the readability of documents.

Isn’t it interesting how the Bible, TV Guide and Mark Twain all rank at a lower level?

Back to the scores on the writing project . . .

My first draft came in at 13.5, the second at 11.5 and the last at 9.5 – right in line with most popular novels.

For better or worse, WIred PR Works comes in at 11.84. I’m okay with being at the same level as The Wall Street Journal [according to another list], but I know I don’t write quite that well – especially when the grammar checker is off.

How about you? What grade is your writing in?

Image credit: Thanks to Shutterstock.com for providing images in exchange for credit, which I am happy to give.

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