What Grade Level Are You Writing For?

Did you know that the average reading level in the United States is Grade 8? Here are a few more interesting facts:

  • Two magazines with the largest circulations in the world, TV Guide and Readers Digest, are written at the 9th-grade reading level.
  • The newspaper with the largest circulation in the world, the Sun, is written at the 9th-grade reading level.
  • USA Today is written at the 10th-grade level.

According to Ph.D. Susan Weinschenk:

In order to understand information you need one or both of the following:

  • You will understand new information more easily if there is already a framework of knowledge to fit it into.
  • The information needs to be at the appropriate reading level.

So what does this mean for your website and blog articles? It means you need to have a good understanding of your target audience and write copy that not only appeals to them, but copy they can actually understand.

Legalese

Your law firm faces an uphill battle taking very complicated, difficult to explain legal issues and presenting them in an easily digestible format for the web. On top of that, you need to understand that your articles and website copy will only be effective if your target audience can understand what they are reading. Crafting content that appeals to your visitors is crucial to helping your website or blog perform at its best (ie: convert website visitors into calls and emails requesting legal services).

How To Calculate Your Website’s Readability Level

Dr. Weinschenk discusses The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Score which is a mathematical formula used to establish the reading level of a piece of content.

The method gives you a Reading Ease formula and also a reading grade level score. The higher the score the easier the passage is to read. Low scores mean the passage is hard to read.

To test the grade level and readability of your content you can visit the website address:

http://www.standards-schmandards.com/exhibits/rix/index.php

Copy and paste your content into the site and it will return your Flesch-Kincaid Grade level and Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score.

Takeaways

I think the important thing to recognize here is that you need a good understanding of your target client. What is their average education level? What type of consumer is your firm dealing with? While the answers may vary, you are better off erring on the side of simplicity to ensure the visitors to your site can understand how you will be able to help them.

FYI: Scores for this article:

Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 12.
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 37.

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