How the Reading Level Test Works

The "Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Formula" is designed to indicate how difficult a passage in English is to understand, presented as a score based on the U.S. school grade levels. The formula was developed in the 1940s by Rudolf Flesch. He was a consultant with the Associated Press, developing methods for improving the readability of newspapers.

Why Grade Level Matters

Your constituents are busy people. Frankly, they prefer novels for rainy day reading, not your communications. Your goal is to help them quickly process what you're trying to tell them. If you don't, you might find they won't read it at all. The grade level gauges how fast your constituents can read and process your writing. The lower the grade level, the faster the read. Aim for a sixth- to eighth-grade level. This doesn’t mean you are talking down to your constituents. Newspapers cover deep subjects, don’t talk down, and usually come in at an eighth-grade level. Popular novels can be as low as the fourth- or fifth-grade level, and we gobble them up with glee.

How to Lower Grade Level

To keep your grade level low:

  • Say it in fewer words if possible.
  • Use shorter words. SAT-level words may look smart, but they burden your reader.
  • Long sentences are okay, as long as you balance them with short ones.
  • Use an online tool, like hemingwayapp.com, to spot problem areas.

More communication tips: