January 11, 2010


One of the things I love about getting together with other writers is the tips and tricks we share. At a recent SCBWI meeting*, I learned about an application in Microsoft Word that scores the readability of your writing.

How cool is that? And it’s so simple. When you run a Spelling and Grammar check, click on Options> Grammar>Readability Statistics. When the spell-check is done, you’ll see a balloon with word counts, averages, and readability numbers. It even counts passive sentences!

Just for fun, I ran this blog post. Grade level = 6.3; Flesch Reading Ease = 70.1 (higher scores mean easier reading). Next, I put the first chapter of my book through the application and came out with a grade level of 3.6 and reading ease of 84.5. Are those good scores for a fantasy?

Well, the good folks at Amazon have provided the means to compare our works with some of the greats. Just find the book, scroll down to “Inside This Book” and click on Text Stats. Same thing, different format.

I looked up “The Changeling Sea”, one of my favorite books by Patricia McKilip. The results? A 4.5 grade level and 81.4 readability score. “The Arkadians” by Lloyd Alexander checks in with 5.7 and 73.3. So it looks like my book is easier to read and requires less education. Hmmmm. I wonder if that’s because I spent so many years working with struggling readers.

Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available for most new books – and, surprisingly, none of the Harry Potter books has it - but there’s bound to be something in your genre that will work.

Give it a try. What did you learn about your writing?

*Thank you, Rahma!