• William B. Taylor

Writing & Readability

When I had finished the manuscript for my first novel, Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor, I had several people read and critique my work. There were the usual comments regarding grammar issues, some names which had been switched in error, etc., all normal things that a writer hopes the proof-reading and beta reading will catch.

In addition to this 'normal' comments, one of my test readers made the comment that the comprehension level of my writing was 'at an 8th grade level'. The comment was one that initially concerned me, so I decided to do some research on the subject.

It turns out that writing at an 8th grade level is not a bad thing as it makes your story easy to read and easy to understand. My famous authors write at no more than a 9th grade reading level which may come as a surprise to many. J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson, Jane Austen and even Earnest Hemmingway, all right at a grade school level.

It appears that my level of writing was not too low and was, in fact, appropriate for my audience. Personally, I read books to be entertained, and when I read for entertainment, I don't want to be challenged by the meaning of words or phrases: I just want to be entertained.

Text books are a different matter, but how many of us curl up with a good text book to relax and escape our every day lives? Not me!

I do find that the use of overly flowery words, or words which no one really uses in everyday conversation comes across as the author being pretentious. Pretention is a turn-off for me, as it is for many others. If I start reading a story and it comes across as pretentious, I close the book and move on to something else.

There are several good websites that you can use to check the readability score of your work, and numerous posts about the subject. The website that I use (at no cost) is

You simply copy some of your writing, paste it into the calculator, press a button and voila, it gives you a readability score expressed as a school grade level. It's quick, easy and free.

So the next time you sit down to work on your manuscript, remember to keep your writing simple and easy to understand. Your readers will be grateful that you entertained them rather than made them feel like they have just been handed a homework assignment.


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