Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reading Ease

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you all
A solarised photo of Ken trying to read.

I was catching up with my reading this morning.

I’d been looking for a good site for tips on elearning writing skills, when I came across this one by Cathy Moore. I recommend it. You’d find it easy to read.

She covers all the usual things on good writing: paragraphing, short sentences varying in length and structure, clear language and simple words.


Cathy has an ideal set of slides that you can scan quickly. She also explains about setting up Readability Statistics in Word. I’d no idea the option was there.

Once set up, you can measure the Flesch Reading Ease on a click. It gives a first check on the ease of reading of a block of text.

A study of popular magazines and newspapers shows a direct match between popularity and Flesch Reading Ease. The highest and most readable scores for the most popular magazines come in at 65.

A tool, not a solution:

Cathy is careful to explain that it’s a tool, not a solution. Here’s how to set it up. Open a Word file and choose:

Instructions for accessing the tools optionsInstructions for accessing the tools options in Word 2007
Check that there’s a tick in Show readability statistics. Running a spell-check on a typical post in Word follows the usual routine, ending in a report. It shows a list of data, as well as the Flesch Reading Ease.

Readability statistics table.
I was a bit sceptical of all this at first, so I decided to put it to the test.

I selected a number of my posts that I knew had been very popular, and some that were certainly not so. I keep Word files of the text of all my posts, so it was easy to check them on their Flesch Reading Ease.

How I write:

What I found made me stop and think again about how I write. Here’s a list of titles of some posts. I put them in order of popularity, measured from data in Google Analytics, beside their Flesch Reading Ease.

FRE - Post Title

- 5 Explanations of a Zen Proverb

73.2 - Splitting the Knol
71.1 - How do I know what I think till I see what I write?
52.8 - So This is What You Want
38.4 - Complexity Science and Social Media Learning
34.8 - Science, Technology, The Silicon Chip and Social Need

I don't believe this is the only way to predict the popularity of a post. But clearly, these numbers are trying to tell me something. I think I may be looking at Readability Statistics in future.

By the way, the Flesch Reading Ease of this post comes in at 75.8.

( 9 ) ( 8 ) ( 7 )<< - related posts - >> ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ka kite anō - Catch ya later


Craig Hadden - Remote Possibilities said...

Fascinating link between the popularity of a blog post and its readability.

BTW, I’m a learning designer (based in Sydney), and Cathy Moore’s one of my heroes!

Like you, I write my posts in Word – or even Outlook. Then I paste the text into the Visual tab in WordPress, and things like the links and styles are retained. Does Blogger have something similar?

You might be interested in a recent post I wrote about making a talk conversational. Many of the techniques (like choosing short words and using contractions) also apply to e-learning content – and blog posts for that matter. See what you think…

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Craig!

Sorry about the time taken to reply. Your comment got caught up in the comment moderation mechanism on my blog.

Thanks for the link to your article - yes, what you say ties in with a lot that I used as a teacher and also as an author of educational material. Words, and the way they can come across when written or spoken have always fascinated me. I was particularly fascinated by the speeches made by presidential candidate, Donald Trump. I would not have voted for Trump, but his success and the subsequent analysis of his speeches by critics made an amazing study in linguistics and how the spoken word can come across.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

As an aside, Craig, I once experimented using Word the way you described. I found that in Blogger, it resulted in a very messy layout that was difficult to edit.