Flesch–Kincaid readability tests
The Flesch/Flesch–Kincaid readability tests are readability tests designed to indicate comprehension difficulty when reading a passage of contemporary academic English. There are two tests, the Flesch Reading Ease, and the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level. Although they use the same core measures (word length and sentence length), they have different weighting factors. The results of the two tests correlate approximately inversely: a text with a comparatively high score on the Reading Ease test should have a lower score on the Grade Level test. Rudolf Flesch devised both systems while J. Peter Kincaid developed the latter for the United States Navy. Such readability tests suggest that many Wikipedia articles may be "too sophisticated" for their readers.
"The Flesch–Kincaid" (F–K) Reading grade level was developed under contract to the United States Navy in 1975 by J. Peter Kincaid and his team. Other related United States Navy research directed by Kincaid delved into high tech education (for example, the electronic authoring and delivery of technical information); usefulness of the Flesch–Kincaid readability formula; computer aids for editing tests; illustrated formats to teach procedures; and the Computer Readability Editing System (CRES).
The F-K formula was first used by the United States Army for assessing the difficulty of technical manuals in 1978 and soon after became the Department of Defense military standard. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was the first state in the United States to require that automobile insurance policies be written at no higher than a ninth grade level (14 to 15 years of age) of reading difficulty, as measured by the F-K formula. This is now a common requirement in many other states and for other legal documents such as insurance policies.
Flesch Reading Ease
In the Flesch Reading Ease test, higher scores indicate material that is easier to read; lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read. The formula for the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES) test is
Scores can be interpreted as shown in the table below.
|90.0–100.0||easily understood by an average 11-year-old student|
|60.0–70.0||easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students|
|0.0–30.0||best understood by university graduates|
Reader's Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine scores about 52, an average 6th grade student's (a 12-year-old) written assignment has a readability test of 60–70 (and a reading grade level of 6–7), and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s. The highest (easiest) readability score possible is around 120 (e.g. every sentence consisting of only two one-syllable words). The score does not have a theoretical lower bound. It is possible to make the score as low as wanted by arbitrarily including words with many syllables. This sentence, for example, taken as a reading passage unto itself, has a readability score of about thirty. The sentence "The Australian platypus is seemingly a hybrid of a mammal and reptilian creature." scores 24.4 as it has 26 syllables and 13 words. While Amazon calculates the text of Moby-Dick as 57.9, one particularly long sentence about sharks in chapter 64 has a readability score of −146.77.
The U.S. Department of Defense uses the Reading Ease test as the standard test of readability for its documents and forms. Florida requires that life insurance policies have a Flesch Reading Ease score of 45 or greater.
Polysyllabic words affect this score significantly more than they do the grade level score.
Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level
These readability tests are used extensively in the field of education. The "Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Formula" translates the 0–100 score to a U.S. grade level, making it easier for teachers, parents, librarians, and others to judge the readability level of various books and texts. It can also mean the number of years of education generally required to understand this text, relevant when the formula results in a number greater than 10. The grade level is calculated with the following formula:
The result is a number that corresponds with a U.S. grade level. The sentence, "The Australian platypus is seemingly a hybrid of a mammal and reptilian creature" is a 13.1 as it has 26 syllables and 13 words.
The lowest grade level score in theory is −3.40, but there are few real passages in which every sentence consists of a single one-syllable word. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss comes close, averaging 5.7 words per sentence and 1.02 syllables per word, with a grade level of −1.3. (Most of the 50 used words are monosyllabic; "anywhere", which occurs 8 times, is the only exception.)
- Gunning fog index
- Dale-Chall Readability Formula
- Coleman-Liau Index
- Automated Readability Index
- SMOG (Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook)
- Accessible publishing
- Anderson, Kent (September 24, 2012). "Wikipedia’s Writing — Tests Show It’s Too Sophisticated for Its Audience". Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- Kincaid, J.P., Fishburne, R.P., Rogers, R.L., & Chissom, B.S. (1975). Derivation of New Readability Formulas (Automated Readability Index, Fog Count, and Flesch Reading Ease formula) for Navy Enlisted Personnel. Research Branch Report 8-75. Chief of Naval Technical Training: Naval Air Station Memphis.
- Kincaid JP, Braby R, Mears J (1988). "Electronic authoring and delivery of technical information". Journal of Instructional Development 11: 8–13.
- McClure G (1987). "Readability formulas: Useful or useless. (an interview with J. Peter Kincaid.)". IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications 30: 12–15.
- Kincaid JP, Braby R, Wulfeck WH II (1983). "Computer aids for editing tests". Educational Technology 23: 29–33.
- Braby R, Kincaid JP, Scott P, McDaniel W (1982). "Illustrated formats to teach procedures". IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications 25: 61–66.
- Kincaid JP, Aagard JA, O'Hara JW, Cottrell LK (1981). "Computer Readability Editing System". IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications 24 (1): 38–42. (also reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology, 11 January 1982, pp. 106-107.)
- Gabe Habash (July 20, 2011). "Book Lies: Readability is Impossible to Measure".
- Melville, Herman. "Chapter 64: Stubb's Supper." Moby Dick. Lit2Go Edition. 1851. Web. <http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/42/moby-dick/745/chapter-64-stubbs-supper/>. August 16, 2013.
"Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other’s live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down, touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm whale, moored by night to a whaleship at sea."
- Luo Si, et al. (5–10 November 2001). "A Statistical Model for Scientific Readability". Atlanta, GA, USA: CIKM '01.
- "Readable Language in Insurance Policies"
- Flesch R (1948). "A new readability yardstick". Journal of Applied Psychology 32: 221–233.
- Kincaid JP, Fishburne RP Jr, Rogers RL, Chissom BS (1975). "Derivation of new readability formulas (Automated Readability Index, Fog Count and Flesch Reading Ease Formula) for Navy enlisted personnel]". Research Branch Report 8-75, Millington, TN: Naval Technical Training, U. S. Naval Air Station, Memphis, TN.
- Farr JN, Jenkins JJ, Paterson DG (October 1951). "Simplification of Flesch Reading Ease Formula". Journal of Applied Psychology 35 (5): 333–337.
- PlainLanguage.com — All About Readability
- The Principles of Readability by William H. DuBay — a brief introduction to readability research
- Style and Diction — free software by the GNU Project that calculates the Flesch–Kincaid readability score
- The state of our union is … dumber — Analysis of the State of the Union