Flesch-Kinkaid readability

Scrivener is an amazing tool. I use it for almost all of my writing, including blog posts. When I added an SEO plugin to my Wordpress website, I started getting Flesch-Kinkaid scores back on the writing. I was surprised I was writing at a higher level than I thought.

As a tool for writers, it seems one very valuable addition would be implementing a way to do a Flesch-Kindaid readability test within the program. I don’t want to see Scrivener become bloated, but being able to easily analyze my writing (with more than just text statistics) seems like a good idea. As a novelist and blogger, I’d like to be able to manage the readability of my content from within Scrivener. I hope this is possible.


Terry Ambrose

There are dozens of these readability metrics around. Flesch-Kinkaid being just one of them. However, to use them one must know the circumstances that they were devised in. Some exist to make sure that grunts know how to fire their weapons. Others target second language speakers accessing technical literature especially medical. They all fail at the one important part of readability—vocabulary. The metrics can measure average length of word or sentence but they cannot (and Flesch-Kinkaid is one of them) tell you if the actual words in the text will be understood. And even if these metrics could tell you that someone aged 6 or 16 would know the words in isolation they cannot tell you in the sense in which the word is being used is right in the specific context.

Yes, but… as Gibbs the Pirate observed of the Pirates’ Code in Pirates of the Caribbean: “The Code?.. They’re more like guidelines anyway!” (Which may be why from times in the distant past, I seem to remember that MS Word - for example - includes several of those different measures of readability - all presumably measuring slightly different things, but all adding up to something that gives you not the whole answer but some idea of whether what you’re writing will go “Whoosh!” over the heads of the people that you’re writing it for, or whether it has a fair chance of hitting the desired spot.)

Whether or not such a measure or measures should be included in Scrivener is of course an entirely separate question.

I set a pretty low bar there don’t I.

Has anyone here done any analysis of their WIPs? Personally, my current work is hitting 5th and 6th grade levels on most of the indices, including a rather low 1.6 (though I doubt a second-grader would really get what I’m trying to say). From what I’ve seen on other sites, this doesn’t seem to be too abnormal for novels, but it still seems weird. Maybe I need more syllables.

And to address the original feature request, this has already been asked for in the past and turned down for being out of scope:

How about starting in the other end? Instead of analyzing what has been written, why not have Scrivener invent the stories in the first place? Especially with an iOS version coming.
“Hey Siri! Let Scrivener tell a good crime story!” :smiley:

I doubt that Hemingway, Tolkien or Jane Austen checked the readability of their books…

I have a … coworker … that relies on those readability scores. I really wish the bosses would stop sending me their stuff to rewrite.

I think the problem with scoring is that communication quality is not as quantifiable as we like to think it is. Part of the issue is that language used to communicate often changes at a rate much faster than the rules used to quantify said communication. My “poor grammar” (and it is poor in both the figurative and literal sense) score badly. Yet my communications score much higher with my “audience” as effective. Part of that is due to my real world style. Another contributor is my conscious revisions made in the mind of “will my dog understand this?” and if he can’t, rewrite it so he can. But then my writing is for a purpose; to effectively communicate complex technical concepts as clearly as possible. Maybe that’s why the score’s don’t work for me.

And for the record, he is a duuuuuuuummmmmmmmb dog. Almost as dumb as me. But I have thumbs so I look smarter.

Spoilsport; I wanted to suggest that one.

Austen certainly did not analyse her use of punctuation. Scattered — and ! around within sentences like she was sowing seeds and waiting to see them grow. And starting on average 100 sentences per novel with a conjunction. She was more concerned with getting the story down than with people being lazy and not putting the effort into reading so she must make her texts readable to the lowest common denominator.

What’s wrong with this? Most style guides say it’s okay, and they’re mostly interested in non-fiction. In a novel, I’d think one could get away with anything, even if it is against the rules, which this isn’t.

Given that I started that sentence with a conjunction I find nothing wrong in it—unless that sentence begins a (or forms the entire) paragraph.

Challenge accepted.

And I’m sure vic-k will want to participate. But he is so finicky these day… Who knows.

One major technical hurdle to these readability calculations is that they rely on counting syllables, and Cocoa has no way of doing that for Mac; nor does Qt for Windows, I believe. There are some Cocoa classes out there (by other people) that do this, but they do it by splitting up words by vowels and then checking for lists of words and parts of words that don’t follow this crude rule. So, they are very rudimentary, won’t work well for half of the language, and even then only work with English. A syllable counter would need to be added at the franework (Apple) level for this really to be feasible.

Jane and I have a lot in common when it comes to punctuation methodology and comma abuse. She would fling handfuls of the stuff at the pages of damp ink, whereas I use one of these, a Tyrolean pebble dash gun: youtube.com/watch?v=mraJM5lrqEM
instead of cement and or pebbles, I load it up with ,s .s ;s :s ?s "s 's !s `s ~s *s (s )s /s \s |s etc., etc. Works for me

Wot friggin’ literary firestorm are you walking into now? :confused: Why are y’ dragging’ me in to it? :open_mouth:

The numpty of numpties Michael Gove MP, the UK’s Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, recently issued a diktat that no civil servant in his department was to start a sentence with a conjunction. This numpty of numpties was previously Secretary of State for Education yet he exhibits no knowledge of education in general or of good writing in particular.

It’s a three conjunction word game!

And reep is the head master. But he isn’t sure he wants to be. Not that it really matters.

And I think all us numpties should be offended. I mean it isn’t really fair is it? lumping us in with politicians. Next you’ll associate us with lawyers.

Y damn right there Pal!! :open_mouth: Polatishens and loyers 'ave enough on their plate as it is!

:open_mouth: WOT! Why :question: :confused: Worrissit?

What was even stranger (and more ridiculous) was that prior to his political peregrinations he was a hack. And hacks are well-known for starting sentences with conjunctions.

He was also a hacktor; he wasn’t any good at hackting either.

We must always start paragraphs with AND.

And the game is to do it in a legitimate way. Unlike using literally and like improperly to show oneself an idiot the use of a leading “and” should be considered appropriate by real writers. NOT correct, but appropriate.

Simple rules.