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What reading level is your text?

We often hear that the average American reads at an 8th grade reading level (shameful, that). Most newspapers, I believe, are even written as low as at a 4th grade reading level (painful statistic). But, what does that mean, and how can you know the level at which you are writing? You could have your 4th-8th grader read through, and reflect on, your prose and let you know which terms and points are less than explicable (9th grade level word) and salient (8th grade level word). However, I have found a relatively automatic and accurate way to let MS Word do the work for you.

To Learn Your Text’s Reading Level:

  1. From the Word (File) menu, select Word Options (It’s a button underneath the main list).
  2. Select the Proofing tab.
  3. In the When checking spelling and grammar in Word section, select the Show Readability Statistics checkbox.
  4. Click OK.
  5. In your Word document, go to the Review tab, and check your Spelling and Grammar.
  6. In the resulting Readability Statistics window, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level displays at the bottom.

Here are some additional resources:
This Readability Test often gives different (higher) reading levels than MS Word
This Readability Test often gives different (lower) reading levels than MS Word
Provides instructions on how to check the readability levels in earlier version of Word

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