BL : Prices & Order

ABC Waterfall Column
Readability is defined as reading ease, especially as it results from a writing style. Extensive research has shown that easy-reading text improves comprehension, retention, reading speed, and reading persistence. Ease-of-reading is the result of the interaction between the text and the reader. In the reader, those features affecting readability are prior knowledge, reading skill, interest and motivation. In the text, those features are content, style, design and structure. The design can include the medium, layout, illustrations, reading and navigation aids, typeface, and color. Among language experts, readability is a score produced by a readability formula. The formulas are widely used to match texts with the reading level of the audience. Extensive research has shown that the popular readability formulas are not 100% accurate, but they give a ‘good rough estimate’ of the reading skill required to read a text. The readability formulas have greatly benefited millions of readers throughout the world in many languages. If there is any problem with the formulas, it is that they are not used enough. Publishers not only use readability formulas to assess the reading level of a text. They also use word-frequency lists. The frequency of a word is a good indication of its ease-of-use. Text leveling, a subjective evaluation of a text based on training and experience, is another important adjunct of using a formula. Since the 1930s, national literacy surveys have shown that the average adult in the U.S. reads at the 8th-grade level. It is important to remember that one’s level of education is no indication of one’s reading skill. Many high-school graduates read at the 8th-grade level, college graduates at the 10th-grade level. With practice, readers with little formal education can often become advanced readers. Nearly all of today’s blockbuster writers write at the 7th-grade level, including John Grisham, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Dan Brown. Experts today recommend writing legal and health information at the 7th-grade level. Laws often require writing medical and safety information at the 5th-grade level (Doak, Doak, and Root 1996). Learning to write for a class of readers other than on’s own is very difficult. It takes method, training, and lots of practice. As Jacques Barzun wrote, ‘Simple English is no person’s native tongue.’ Readability may be assessed by conducting a readability survey or by application of readability tests, which have been established through analysis of readability survey results. Writers, editors, and publishers often make intuitive assessments of readability based on experience, insight into their target audience, and knowledge of a number of rules of thumb, which are often derived from assessing a number of readability survey results. Re-readability, the propensity to read something again after a period of time, appears to be a criterion dependent upon the reader.

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