What is readability?

Readability refers to how easy it is to read and understand a text. You can measure readability using metrics such as the number of syllables in a sentence or the variety of words used. These factors are then used to calculate a ‘level’ and/or a readability score.  

Why is readability important?

Readability is important because it influences how clearly a text can be understood by the reader. 

By analysing the readability of a text, you can try to make that text as clear as possible and better match it with its audience. 

What are some common examples?

Here are some examples where a good readability score would be critical: 

  • Any form of instruction such as filling in an online form
  • Guidance on completing a task
  • Writing a detailed manual outlining important organisational information, 

How do you make content readable?

All content should be aimed at someone with a reading age of 8/9 years old. This is the standard for GOV.UK and ensures that content can be accessed by a much wider range of readers. By aiming for content at this reading age, we can be confident it is understood by as many people as possible.  

It’s important to remember that your audience might:

  • have English as a second language
  • be using accessible software 
  • have special education needs and/or a disability (SEND) 

Some helpful Readability Guidelines to improve your written content and communications:

  • Write in small chunks
  • Avoid jargon
  • Write sentences that are no more than 15 to 20 words
  • Write paragraphs that are limited to 3 to 4 sentences
  • Follow Plain English Guidance. This includes tips such as:
    • Keep your sentences short
    • Prefer active verbs
    • Use ‘you’ and ‘we’
    • Use words that are appropriate for the reader
    • Don’t be afraid to give instructions
    • Avoid nominalisations
    • Use lists where appropriate
  • Remember not to assume the reader knows the subject

Tips for things to avoid in your writing:

  • Passive voice – use the ‘by zombies check’ to solve this negative voice 
  • Long sentences – try and rephrase them (often after removing a passive voice, the sentence length will get shorter) 
  • Google synonyms for longer words that flag up in the readability checkers  

Readability Tools that could help you: 

For more help with readability, these are really great tools to copy text into. It will be useful to check what age texts are, and then edit alternative words, sentences and phrases into the checker. At this stage you can then re-check the readability age and keep on editing & re-checking the text till you get your desired age. 

Difficult & Extraneous Word Finder – Helps you write clearly and concisely by identifying possible weak points in your prose

Readable app –  Discover how easy a piece of text is to read and get tips to improve its readability. 

Readability Test | WebFX – Quick and easy way to test the readability of your work

Readability test – Paste your text into the box and your score will pop up in the yellow box. Use the scale to see how your score measures up to famous writers, politicians and newspapers.