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Flesch Reading Ease

The Flesch Reading Ease formula is one of the two most commonly used measures of the readability of writing. It produces a numerical score (from 0 to 100) that indicates the degree of reading difficulty of the writing. High scores denote easier reading. Low scores indicate writing that is difficult.

The formula for the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES) is:

206.835 - 1.015 (av. sentence length) - 84.6 (av. no. of syllables per word)
206.835 - 1.015 (no. words no. sentences) - 84.6 (no. syllables no. words)

An average 5th grade student can easily understand writing that scores 90 -100. Grade 8 and 9 students can understand writing that scores 60 - 70 on the test. Text that scores 0-30 is best understood by college graduates.

The Harvard Law Review has a Flesch Reading Ease Score in the low 30s. In contrast, Reader's Digest and Time score about 65 and 52, respectively. The page, entitled Easy-To-Understand Writing, on this website has a score of 61.09. Many U.S. government agencies require their documents to achieve certain, specified readability levels.

The creator of the Flesch Reading Ease test and co-creator of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test was Rudolf Flesch, a readability expert and writing consultant. Flesch, who died in 1986, was born in Austria and completed his law studies there before moving to the United States where he earned a Ph.D. in English at Columbia University. His most famous book, Why Johnny Can't Read, was published in 1955. It derided the trend to teaching reading by requiring learners to memorize words by sight. Instead, he advocated a return to phonics, the teaching of reading by requiring learners to sound out words. His many books on the subject of clear, effective communication include the following:

  • How to Test Readability

  • How to Write Better

  • The Art of Plain Talk

  • The Art of Readable Writing

  • The ABC of Style: A Guide to Plain English

  • Rudolf Flesch on Business Communications: How to Say

  • What You Mean in Plain English

  • Lite English

  • Write Plain English: A Book for Lawyers and Consumers

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