readable content for the web content writer

A Guide for the Web Content Writer: How To Create Content Up To Flesch–Kincaid Readability Standards

Have you heard of the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests?

If you answered “no”, hold onto your chair.

We’re about to tell you something that will change (read: improve) the way you create as a web content writer, forever.

First, we all know that writing great copy means writing simple copy, right?

Copy that delivers the point without delving into complicated language or convoluted sentences, to be clear.

For some people, though, this is a tall order.

Fortunately, the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests are here to help you determine how readable your content truly is and what you can do to improve it.

Read on to learn more about these nifty tests and how they can revolutionize your content writing experience forever as a web content writer.

Flesch–Kincaid for the web content writer

A Guide for the Web Content Writer: Defining the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test

J. Peter KincaidThe Flesch-Kincaid readability tests were named after a talented Mr. J. Peter Kincaid and his team of developers.

The tests were originally developed under contract with the US Navy and were designed to assess the difficulty of understanding in technical manuals around the year 1978. Within a few years, the tests became the standard within the Department of Defense and quickly spread throughout government.

What do the tests test for though? Essentially, the tests break text down into two parts (word length and sentence length) and then evaluate both parts for readability. Ideally, all parts of a piece of content should be written at a ninth-grade reading level. This ensures that the content will be easy for virtually everyone to understand and ensures that technical manuals, insurance policies and medical documents are not out of reach of the common reader.

There are two parts of the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests:

  • Flesch reading ease test
  • Flesch-Kincaid grade level test

They both measure word and sentence length and their results relate conversely to one another.

For example, if a piece of text has a high Reading Ease score, it should have a low grade level score.

Flesch-Kincaid readability tests

We put together a short visual guide to visually display the readability tests. Cred to our designers @ Express Writers!

The Flesch Reading Ease Test

When a piece is evaluated with the Flesch reading-ease test, the higher the score, the better.

The formula for this test is as follows:

206.835 – 1.015 (total words/total sentences) – 84.6 (total syllables/total words).

The score breakdown is as follows:

  • 0-30.0: understood easily by university graduates
  • 0-70.0: easily understood by 15-15 year-old students
  • 0-100.0: easily understood by most 11 year-old students

Reader’s Digest, for example, is a 65 on the readability index while Time is a 52. The highest possible readability score is around 120 and consists of easy words, monosyllable words and sentences like “the dog chased the frog.”

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test

These tests are popular in the education field and present a piece of text based upon its readability for a US grade level. This makes it easy for adults to judge immediately the difficulty or ease of a piece and to ascertain its suitability for certain groups. Additionally, this test helps ascertain how many years of education a person needs to have in order to read a piece of content. The formula for this test is as follows:

0.39 (total words/total sentences) + 11.8 (total syllables/total words) – 15.59

A Content Writer Guide for Better Flesch-Kincaid Readability: 4 Tips

Now that you understand what the tests are, it’s time to talk about how you can be a content writer that adheres to these formulas.

This is important because, when content is simple to read, it’s more likely to grab a reader and maintain interest.

Additionally, all great business writing is simple, clear, and to-the-point.

This cuts away the amount of muck a reader has to wade through and makes it easy to cut to the heart of the content.

To write great content that gets good scores on the readability tests, follow these 4 tips:

1. Keep sentences per paragraph low

Nobody wants to wade into a never-ending paragraph by a wordy content writer. In addition to being ugly, these paragraphs are tough to read and, as such, they’ll earn you a low readability score.

To keep readability up, break your text into nice, neat paragraphs rather than huge blocks of content.

2. Keep words per sentence low

Run-ons, begone!

To keep your readability score high, use no more than 25 words per sentence you write. This keeps our subject clear and makes your writing easy to read.

This also allows you to separate your thoughts and allow your readers to breathe before you leap between ideas.

3. Keep character per word counts low

Unless you’re writing a technical piece, keep your words simple. For example, use “went” instead of “intended to go to.” This makes your text more readable and inherently makes it easier for readers to discern the meaning of.

4. Do away with passive voice

Passive voice is the silent enemy of writers everywhere.

In addition to being annoying, it makes writing confusing.

“The apple was being eaten” doesn’t make nearly as much sense as “Sam ate the apple.”

Keep your writing clear by writing in active rather than passive voice.

Testing your readability

If you write in Microsoft Word, you’ve already got a valuable readability evaluator you probably didn’t even know about.

How cool is that?!

To tap into it, run the typical “spelling & grammar” check from your toolbar:

flesh checker

From here, click the “options” button at the bottom of your screen and check the box that says “show readability statistics:”


This will magically give you all of the stats you need to boost your readability score: including sentence-per-paragraph, words-per-sentence and characters-per-word sentence.

It will also give you your passive sentence percentage and both your Flesch reading ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade level scores. 

Flesch–Kincaid web content writer standards

How Readability Affects SEO

By now, we all know that good SEO means great content.

Specifically, content that is easy for search engines and people to locate and read.

And, since simple content allows readers to scan quickly and find answers, it’s generally preferred by SEO.

So, it makes sense: writing that falls within desirable Flesch-Kincaid scores can be more desirable to SEO and easier for readers to find and love.

Although most writers are unfamiliar with the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests, tapping into the power of these simple metrics can help you improve your writing and deliver clearer content for your readers.

Get engaging, readable content that matches Flesch-Kincaid standards from our content writers! Check out the Content Shop to order yours today.

5 replies
  1. andrew zubriczky
    andrew zubriczky says:

    Thank you for your well-researched, well-worded and well-intentioned article for your readers; I loved it! Despite the fact that I am totally opposed to EVERYTHING these tests represent. Truthfully speaking, anything that limits your abilities to communicate will produce misunderstandings and miscommunications as a direct result. This is an inescapable fact of writing, and of speaking! A writer is like a runner; unbridled, and speeding towards their destination with every ounce of their being. The runner has no time to think, and can only react instinctively, to keep running and running, no matter what! Well, a writer is the same; they too, should not be held in check, by the letter count of words or their lengths within a sentence. The writer needs to write and write; without thinking of anything else than to get the words out as quickly as possible. This is the only way to train a writer to write well. Then, they can edit, rewrite, re-edit and rewrite, ad infinitum; or at least until they are satisfied. I once edited a piece over 100 times until I was comfortable with the end-product. Never, never, did I change my words; I just focused on Grammar and punctuation, to make my writing as clear as possible to my readers; making it totally free of misinterpretation or misunderstandings! A good writer writes for a specific audience, readership. They must know the language of their readers; including, their level of comprehension to the subject being written about. My favorite expression is poignantly summarized by the phrase, “Eschew Obfuscation”! As long as you follow that intention, well, you’ll be just fine as writer. I never follow the advice of sociologists or psychologists, as they mostly can only view human beings as mere animals, with only stimulus-responses to monitor and control. I am a FREE and UNBRIDLED Spirit of the UNIVERSE; I will NOT be confined; nor, will my words or their lengths! 🙂

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi Andrew, Great points. I agree with your observations that a good writer focuses more on grammar, punctuation, and their level of creativity rather than a set of tests. All too true. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

    • Von Smith
      Von Smith says:

      Andrew, your reply scored the following:

      Flesch Reading Ease 61
      Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.5
      Passive Sentences 27.7%

      These are much better than a recent piece that scored 0, 21.8, and 38% respectively.

      These tests help answer the question, “Unless a writer asks his readership, how can he gauge how well he communicated?”

      For me, the other standard is Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, which has stood the test since 1935.

      I think Julia’s article is extremely valuable in the modern reading environment. I get the feeling you learned to read and write when it was still taught in school. I do not get that feeling with much Internet writing.

      The most valuable idea to improve my writing: Use active voice.

    • Kristel
      Kristel says:

      Thanks, Riley! We’re glad that we could help you get more information on this subject. – Kristel, Content Specialist at Express Writers


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