How can I tell if my writing is easy or hard to read?
Well, if you're using Microsoft Word, you can use the built-in readability statistics, which will show you your document's Flesch-Kincaid score. To turn on this function in Word 2010, click on the File menu in the upper left of the screen. Select "Options," and in the "Word Options" dialog box, select "Proofing" in the left-hand column. Toward the bottom of the Proofing dialog box, under "When correcting spelling and grammar in Word," click on the box next to "Show readability statistics." This will display the statistics at the end of your spelling and grammar check. Look for "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level" at the bottom of the Readability Statistics dialog box.
Another method is to use the Clarity Index. The Clarity Index also gives you a numerical measure of how easy or difficult a piece of writing is to read. Use the Clarity Index as a quick check when revising, and not as a rule.
To check your own or someone else's writing:
Select a passage of about 200 words. Count the number of sentences; write that number down.
Count the number of words; write that number down also.
Count the number of long words (three syllables or more), and again, write down the number.
Using these basic figures, do a quick three-step computation:
Divide the number of words by the number of sentences to get the average number of words per sentence.
Divide the number of long words by the number of sentences to get the percentage of long words.
Add the words per sentence to the percentage of long words. The sum is the Clarity Index.
If the Clarity Index on your writing is higher than 35, try using simpler words and shorter sentences.
If the Clarity Index for your writing in lower than 25, your writing may sound choppy and childlike to readers.