Is Your Document Understandable to People Who Don’t Have a PhD?

Yes, this was the heading on a document that went around the office this morning. Like many in the non-profit/church/ecumenical/think-tank/social justice land we have a hard time keeping our writing familiar and accessible. Wooden, academic writing seems to be our go-to style. There was lots of good stuff in this guide for friendlier writing, but I share with you only one tip because it’s pure gold!

Did you know Microsoft Word has a tool to tell you how readable your document is? Miraculous!

– Click Microsoft Office Button
– Click “Word Options” . . . it’s tucked down at the bottom of the menu
– Click “Proofing”
– Make sure “Check grammar with spelling” is selected
– Under “When correcting grammar in Word” select the box called “Show readability statistics”

To test it out, run the spellchecker! It’s great! Our friend says that you are looking for a reading ease score between 60 and 70 (100 is easiest) and a grade level test of 7.0 to 8.0.

Have fun! Try it out and share what your writing scored.

PS – I am extraordinarily relieved that my latest written efforts for my PhD scored a 32 on Reading Ease and a Grade Level of 13.3 (I often get flack for writing to plainly, too casually, and use too few technical terms).

PPS – I am also a little fretful that my latest efforts for work (an email newsletter intended for mass consumption) rated a 43 and a Grade Level of 11.


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