Schedule a call

What is readability?

Readability measures how easy it is to understand the content and how long it takes for an average person to read it.

To check the readability of a text, you need to analyse the style, the grammar, the structure of the text, and much more. While it seems like a big feat, using the right tools will quickly teach you how to write a readable copy.

Our readability score checker suggestions – the best free tools

As a starting point, we would recommend using one of these tools to test the readability of a website:

If you’re on WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you the readability score in its free version. And if you’re less of a “cloud person”, Microsoft Word has a built-in readability checker that most people aren’t aware of.

The importance of readability

People always want to find the right information as fast as possible. When using the Internet, they have short attention spans. Pair that with the fact that written language is more complex than spoken and that reading from a screen usually takes longer than reading a print text, and we have a deadly combination.

There’s a common misconception that a readable text is “basic”, or that it’s aimed at young people in school age. A readability score is not a benchmark of your knowledge or sophistication. The purpose is to make the user experience as seamless as possible. Even if your highly educated audience can read a harder piece of content, it will take longer for them to do so. Regardless of your niche, making the content of your business website easier to read will generally benefit your visitors – and the conversion rates.

USEFUL WEBSITE & MARKETING TIPS DELIVERED ONCE A WEEK

Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

What’s a good readability score?

We gave you the tools and the reasoning – so now when is your text considered “readable”? Our rule of thumb for web copy is a Flesch Reading Ease of 60 or more, on a scale of up to 100. As a fun fact, the Flesch scale has no lower limit. Yes, we’ve seen text go into negative values!

To give you a general idea of how easy it is to read the text based on its score, here’s how each style is described:

  • under 30 is very difficult to read
  • 30-50 is difficult
  • 50-60 is fairly difficult
  • 60-70 is standard
  • 70-80 is fairly easy
  • 80-90 is easy
  • 90-100 is very easy

For context, an 11-year old will easily understand text that scores over 90. People aged 13 to 15 can usually understand anything above 60, and scores under 30 are best understood by university graduates.

How to make your website easier to read

Have you seen this alert before and wondered what to do to improve readability?

The copy scores [X] in the test, which is considered very difficult to read. Try to make shorter sentences, using less difficult words to improve readability.

The best part about readability is its simple formula. You don’t need any tools to improve your copy. We’d still advise using the aforementioned readability checkers to verify, but here’s everything you need to know about the formula:

The Flesch Reading Ease score takes into account the average word count per sentence and the average syllables per word.

So in essence, you only need to do two things to make your content more readable:

  • reduce the number of words per sentence
  • use words with fewer syllables

7 tips to make your content easier to read

Readability is important, but it’s not the ultimate solution to your problems. Here are other tips that will improve your writing:

  1. Use fewer adverbs. You can use a stronger verb instead, and it will help you reduce the word count in sentences.
  2. Avoid passive voice. If you try rephrasing active sentences into passive ones, you’ll see that they usually use more words. By now, you know what’s the result of that. On top of that, passive voice requires more “brainpower”, as the structure of the sentences is complex.
  3. Forget long subordinate clauses.
  4. Don’t use sticky sentences. Glue words are the most common English words, such as: in, on, the, was, for, that, like, some, from, and much more. Yes, you’ve guessed it. A sticky sentence is longer.
  5. Consider sentence variety. We’re talking a lot about length, but short sentences aren’t the sweet spot. It would be hard to read paragraphs full of 5-word sentences. Variety keeps the text flowing. Don’t forget that the Reading Ease score has two components. The other one checks the ratio of syllables per word. Longer sentences with fewer syllables can be more readable than short ones.
  6. Careful with your scissors. You don’t need to cut every single adverb or aim for super short sentences. There are various preferences based on the source, but usually, the target average sentence length is 11-18 words. The British Government has fantastic guidelines for their writers.
  7. Don’t flatter your audience. We’ve mentioned that a simple text doesn’t discredit your visitors’ ability to understand it. The point is to make their life easier. An average person reads at most 28% of the words on a page anyway, so what’s the point?

Good readability improves accessibility

In our article about the top accessibility tips for website editors, readability is one of the key points. Making the content easier to read benefits people with various disabilities. It even goes as far as benefiting the vision-impaired members of your audience. Copy that is easier to read will also be read out faster by screen readers. When you cut the fluff, everyone wins.

How important is readability for SEO?

We’ve mentioned that written language takes more effort to understand than spoken. In short, it’s more natural. As you may know, SEO has long evolved from being an algorithm obsessed with keyword stuffing. It’s all about the users now. And the thing is – people don’t search like machines. They use natural phrases and in 2017 Google confirmed that 15% of daily searches have never been seen before.

So the bottom line is to keep it natural. People search using simple, readable queries and they will appreciate it if the answers follow suit. Of course, there is time and place for everything – but aligning your content with the user expectations is the best direction you can take. It can also future-proof your business, as natural language will help you rank for the keywords frequently asked via voice search. That’s a rather nice side effect, don’t you think?

Did you know…

Yoast SEO, the plugin that helps you set up SEO settings in WordPress and measures the readability of your pages, is one of the essential plugins we recommend for every WordPress website.

Readability FAQs

What is a good Flesch Reading Ease readability score?

The target for website readability is more than 60.0 points on the Flesch Reading Ease scale.

Where to test the readability of a website for free?

You can use the following free tools to test the readability of your website:

ProWritingAid (run the “Readability” report; the tool is free for text up to 500 words)
Web FX readability test tool
Readable.com

How does readability affect SEO?

Yes, but not directly. It’s important to understand that User Experience is an important SEO factor. Websites that are easier and faster to read will improve your engagement metrics, which can potentially boost your rankings in search engines.

What can be adjusted to improve the readability of the content?

To improve the readability of your content: use fewer adverbs, avoid passive voice, forget long subordinate clauses, don’t use sticky sentences, and improve the variety of sentence lengths. Above everything else, be natural and don’t flatter your audience. A copy that is easier to read is better for everyone, even the geniuses that you might be targetting.

How to improve readability score on WordPress?

Following the guidelines from this article, you’ll be able to improve the readability score on WordPress. The score is provided by the Yoast SEO plugin and uses the Flesch Reading Ease algorithm described in the blog post.

What is readability score in WordPress?

The readability score in WordPress uses the Flesch Reading Ease scale. The scale takes into account the average word count per sentence and the average syllables per word. Readability measures how easy it is to understand the content and how long it takes for an average person to read it.

Originally published Aug 13, 2021 4:20:40 PM, updated April 23 2022.

Don't forget to share this post!