How To Improve Content Readability With the Flesch Reading Ease Test

4 min read
SEO/Content Marketing
By: Maddy Osman

As a content marketer, you want to make sure your text is readable — or easily understood by the average person.

But how do you measure that?

You could ask a friend whether or not your articles are easy to read, but chances are their answer won’t reflect the true reading level of your content.

Not sure how else to evaluate your text’s readability? No worries, I’ve got you covered.

Not too long ago, I discussed the Flesch reading ease test in my Content Marketing Mentor video series. Below, you’ll find a more in-depth guide to what the Flesch reading ease test is and how you can apply it to your own content to improve readability.

Why Is Readability Important?

Paying attention to readability is crucial for getting your message across to your target audience.

Think about it: when people have a pain point they want solved, they don’t want to wade through mountains of text to discover the solution. No, they want clear, legible, easy-to-understand text that points them to the answer right away.

Just note that doesn’t mean you need to “dumb down” your writing. You should write at the readability level your audience expects. If your audience is familiar with technical jargon, then use it — even if it means your text may be categorized at a higher reading level.

When your audience understands what you’re trying to convey, they are more likely to stick around and explore what you have to offer. That can lead to more traffic and engagement on your website.

Improve flesch reading

Another reason readability is so important is search engines’ growing preference for simple content.

Search engines like Google want to provide a memorable experience to users. And a big part of that is answering people’s questions in the simplest way possible.

Plus, good readability can help you reach a wider audience. Content that doesn’t exceed an eighth-grade reading level can generally be read and understood by different people, including people with dyslexia.

However, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the core of your content’s message in favor of simplicity. Simplify your content too much, and you risk losing your target audience to more in-depth guides and websites.

So nailing down your target audience and creating content that caters to them is key.

What Is the Flesch Reading Ease Test?

The Flesch reading ease test is a formula for assessing how simple it is to read a piece of content. Many content and SEO tools use it to provide readability recommendations to users.

It was first proposed in the 1940s by Dr. Rudolph Flesch, an academic who wrote extensively on how to write clearly. The formula measures the readability of your writing and categorizes it into different reading levels.

Different target audiences have different reading levels, and you need to adjust your content’s readability to match the specific level of your audience. After all, you wouldn’t want to write at a twelfth-grade level if your target audience normally reads at a fifth-grade level, would you?

And here is where the Flesch reading ease test comes in super handy. Based on just a few variables, the Flesch reading ease test can tell you at what readability level your content is currently written.

Here’s the test written as an algorithm:

Plugging in the relevant numbers, this algorithm creates a score between 0 and 100. The higher your score, the easier your content is to understand.

You can use the Flesch reading ease test to determine if your content’s readability matches the ideals of your target audience. Below is an interpretation of all the scores on the test:

ScoreReading level
90-1005th grade
80-906th grade
70-807th grade
60-708th or 9th grade
50-6010th to 12th grade
30-50College
0-30College graduate

Note that the average person’s reading level is seventh- to eighth-grade.

What Tools Help Measure Readability?

Understandably, you aren’t going to want to recalculate your text’s Flesch reading ease score every time you make a change to your content

Don’t fret: There are plenty of tools online that’ll calculate the readability level for you.

Tools like Clearscope and Hemingway analyze content based on the Flesch reading ease test and suggest a readability score in terms of reading level.

As I discussed earlier, you can then use these scores to determine if your content is written at the optimal reading level for your target audience.

For instance, if you’re writing a text for Ph.D. students and want them to engage with your content, you’ll want to aim for a readability score at that level. 

Just remember the average U.S. citizen reads at around an eighth-grade level. All else being equal, this is the level you should aim for.

Final Thoughts: How Does the Flesch Reading Ease Test Work?

In a nutshell, the Flesch reading ease test is a quick and easy way to judge the reading level of your text.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a case study, blog post, or sales page — your content should be easy for your target audience to read and understand.

Depending on the score you get on the Flesch reading ease test, you should be able to determine whether your content needs optimizing to be more relatable to your audience.

To learn more about how and why measuring content readability is so important, check out my book — Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style.

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Maddy Osman

The Blogsmith

Maddy Osman is the author of Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style. She's a digital native with a decade-long devotion to creating engaging, accessible, and relevant content. Her efforts have earned her a spot in BuzzSumo’s Top 100 Content Marketers and The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers. She has spoken for audiences at WordCamp US, SearchCon, and Denver Startup Week.

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