Readability: How “Readable” is YOUR Writing?

Young Boy reading a book, and struggling to do so

Is your writing “readable”? How do you know?

To introduce the concept of readability, I have some more questions for you.

Have you ever used “big” words in an attempt to seem smarter than you are? Have you ever looked up a word in the dictionary . . . and then had to look up the words found in its definition?

I can see most of you nodding your heads. I can see a few smiles, too. 😉

Now let me ask you:

  • Have you ever wondered if the words you choose to use are too difficult for others to read and/or understand?
  • Have you ever wondered what others really think of your writing (whether it’s found in a blog post, an ebook, a novel, an essay, an article, etc.)?
  • Have you ever read something that was hard to understand (because of all the words you didn’t know the definitions to)?

I bet all of your answers to these questions are “yes.”

But . . . do you know what “readability” really is?

What this post on readability will do for you

This post will:

  • teach you what readability is
  • discuss some history behind how readability is measured
  • indicate the different methods for how readability can be measured
  • give you links to the free, online readability calculators that writers, bloggers, and freelancers should use
  • two additional articles you can read to expand your mind, and
  • it will also mention a brief announcement from Wording Well

You NEED to Consider Readability

Have you ever seriously contemplated the readability of your blog post, books, or articles, and then tailored your writing to your specific audience?

If you are shaking your head shamefully, that’s okay; most people don’t.

Perhaps you didn’t know what to do. Perhaps you didn’t know that you could check the readability of your text.

Perhaps – and this is the more likely option – you’ve never really considered what readability means, how it affects your readers, and how important it actually is.

If you are an author, blogger, writer, freelancer, student (or wannabe author, blogger, writer, freelancer or student), there are a few critical things you should know about readability.

Smiling Senior Woman Reading A Book

What is Readability?

Readability is the measure of written language that makes it easy to read and understand.

Readability tests, which are mathematical formulas, were designed to assess the suitability of books for students at particular grade levels or ages. They were also meant to save time – because before the formula were used those decisions were made on recommendations of educators and librarians who read the books. These people were taking books already written and figuring out who were the appropriate reading groups.~ Source: All About Readability

The tests were intended to help educators, librarians and publishers make decisions about purchase and sale of books.

Readability, however, is dependent upon many characteristics: age, race, culture, and education. The use of slang also plays a part in readability. I think we all know that each culture (heck, even each generation!) has its own slang words or phrases!

Slang

Slang refers to a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people. To brush up on or learn some American slang, I’d recommend opting to get 10 randomly chosen slang expressions from their database.  You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn!

Of the 288 factors that were identified, format or design factors were found to be among the three most important clusters of contributors to making a text easier or more difficult to read.

Reading and Writing

One of the reasons I love reading and writing stems from my love for word. When I read and write, I get to be exposed to more words!

When I encounter a word I’ve never heard of, I look it up so that I can add it to my lexicon. I also try to use it correctly in a sentence.

These two practices are something most teachers instruct their students to do in elementary school, and, in fact, were taught to me by my teachers.

They have stuck with me throughout the years, too. I love adding words to my lexicon, and I love using those words properly. When I am writing, I often search for synonyms to use to enhance my writing. However, I try not to use too many “big” words, for two reasons:

  1. Most people won’t understand what I’m saying.
  2. Keeping things simple makes for a more widespread understanding. Most people are not university educated (like I am). Many people cannot read complex sentences. Some people cannot read at all. (Of course, those people won’t be reading this!)

pie chart showing how many people can read

Literacy Statistics

It is estimated that 17-20% of the people in the world cannot read or write. Read More

Some Neat Word Games for You!

This picture is one of block letters that spell out "play time" using childrens' building blocks.

I like word games such as Scrabble, Hangman, and crossword puzzles. I like them because they are fun to do and play!

It’s great, too, that word games help to increase your brain activity, which, in turn, leads to longevity and also staves off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

My mother begins her day with coffee and a puzzle book, and she’s still sharp even though she’s in her late sixties!

Word games provide a win-win situation for everyone! YAY! 🙂

Of course, writing tools can be fun to use, too. 😉

The Many Things Dot Org Site

I found this site recently, which is geared toward ESL (English as a second language) students, that has a bunch of neat word games on it. Don’t let the fact that is for ESL students deter you; some of the games are really fun!!!

It’s called Many Things DOT Org and you can do a lot of different things on this site! The possibilities are endless!

It has games that make learning fun. The only drawback is that the site takes a long time to load (almost one minute) but it is worth the wait. I would suggest spending 20 minutes each day exploring and learning. It will help you learn English faster than a teacher can! 🙂

I’ve actually told a few people about this site and have seen an improvement in their language skills already. 🙂 YAY!

Fun for Everyone – Share Your Favorite Game

What sites do you like to use to play word games?

Leave a link to your favorite fun site in the comment section, or simply tell us what site you like the best!

Make a donation

Remember, I don’t just link to anything without checking them out myself. I’m committed to providing you with useful and great stuff here on Wording Well.

I don’t expect anything in return, but I have to mention that I will accept donations if you ever feel the need to thank me.

Of course, you could also thank me with a social share. Everything you do is appreciated! 🙂

Have a great day, and have some fun!

One more thing… Learn about Lorraine

Some of you are new readers, and so I’d like to invite you to read Who I Am + How I Became a Self-Published Author (and a question for you). This is a post I published on my other blog, Laying It Out There.

I hope you enjoy it, and respond to the question I have for you at the end! (Hint: it involves YOU.) 😉

 

Opening/featured image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Help Me Determine if We Can Eliminate Spam Forever!

This is a picture of a stick man I created who I like to call Gimpy. He's frustrated because he doesn't know what is going on! He's trying to comment on my blog, but can't.

Are you sick of spam? I know I am, and want to eliminate it once and for all.

Akismet just isn’t cutting it, so I’ve switched to Anti-Spam. It might have to do with the current commenting system I’m using (as Connor Rickett points out in the last half of his video), but I’m just not sure.

Anyways, these are both FREE WordPress plugins, but one seems to be better than the other!

So far, Anti-Spam is doing the trick, and there is NO spam in my spam folder, but I’m not sure how it is going to affect people who want to comment on my posts, so I need your help!

My Commenting Plugin Experiment

I experimented with this in the past, but for only a few days. I wasn’t sure if I lost commenters. I know that Akismet sometimes classified a couple of my commenters as spam (a couple of times Adrienne Smith was considered spam, and I know for a fact that she is a real person), but, I’m tired of hunting for such commenters in my spam folder. Wading through spam comments is a time-waster, and my time is better spent elsewhere. I’m willing to bet yours is, too.

A New Commenting Problem

The problem that I’m facing now is wondering whether or not my commenters are going to make it through the filtering process. I’m afraid I’m going to lose commenters. I actually activated this plugin about 10 days ago, and so far have had no problems (that I know of) with peoples’ abilities to comment on my last post… so this post might be a waste of time on my part… but I don’t think it is.

At the very least, it will teach you about the Anti-Spam plugin!

What to do if you cannot comment on Wording Well

It’s no secret that I moderate comments on this site. I do this for three reasons: Read More

Steps I Took To Self-Publish My Book + An Important Announcement about Wording Well)

Ebook Cover - Risky Issues by Lorraine Reguly

If you have not yet self-published a book but want to, there are certain steps you could take to do so. Most new authors do things haphazardly, however, because they are uninformed of what to do first.

Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. Other times, you can listen to someone who has self-published a book and has “been there, done that.”

Self-publishing my book took me a long time only because I procrastinated a lot. In actuality, I could have gotten that darn thing out there a lot sooner than I did. (And yes, I know I shouldn’t call my book “that darn thing” but it’s my book, and I can call it whatever I want!) 😀

Steps I Followed to self-publish (which you should, too)

Here are the steps I followed to self-publish my book.

This link will bring you to my author site… which brings me to my announcement.

An Important Announcement about the future of Wording Well

Dear Reader, I really enjoyed my vacation, and it’s good to be back. 🙂 The time off from blogging allowed me to figure out a few things that have been weighing on my mind.
I have decided that I’m going to refrain from posting information about self-publishing on Wording Well and am going to post it on Lorraine Reguly: Laying It Out There instead. I’m also going to be posting all future book reviews on my author site as well.

I want Wording Well to focus on offering freelancing tips, writing tips, and blogging tips.

I want my author website to offer book reviews, and tips on self-publishing, and personal stories about me (something previously found on Lorraine Reguly’s Life – the name of this blog before it became Wording Well – but which are still found here on Wording Well, in the archives).

I also need to focus more on my freelance writing and editing business. It’s time that I make these important changes now, especially since my Amazon Author Central page is linked to the blog on my author website. (This page also displays my latest Tweet!)

Originally, when I started blogging, I had no direction. I was still learning what blogging was all about. Granted, I know there are still things to learn (there always is!), but I’ve come a long way since my early blogging days, as I’m now earning money from writing and editing (which I love). 🙂

It’s going to take some time to get both Wording Well and Lorraine Reguly: Laying It Out There to a point where they are clearly defined and where I want these sites to be, but I know that I can do it. I have diligence. 🙂 Juggling more than one blog is tough, but I know it will get easier with time.

Many bloggers have multiple blogs, depending on their niche.

Although both of my sites pertain to writing, their niches are actually very different (or they will be, soon)!  Wording Well is going to have an emphasis on freelancing and blogging, with the niche for Lorraine Reguly: Laying It Out There having an emphasis on books (whether they are written by me or not!), book reviews, and self-publishing (and all that self-publishing entails, which is a lot).

Furthermore, I’m writing posts about different blogging tips for Dear Blogger at a rate of one per month. I strongly urge you to read them. Often, they begin as posts I’d publish here! However, because I get paid to guest post there, and have a contract to produce posts at this rate, I am not going to publish them here when I can make money publishing them there! (You would do the same thing, if you were me.) But because I know all of you don’t follow that blog,  I generally try to write two posts dealing with the same issue, and with my post on Wording Well linking to my posts on Dear Blogger, because the post on Dear Blogger offers more information. It has to; Greg doesn’t pay me for nothing! 😉

What this all means for you

Depending on your particular interests, you might have to follow both of my sites! You might want to follow one or the other. That choice is yours. I can’t make you do something you don’t want to do. What I will promise you is that, regardless of when and where I post, I will be completely forthright, honest, and provide you with as much information as I can, in a clear manner.

Also, if one post relates to another, I will link to it. I don’t want you to miss out on important info!

 

An Invitation for you

Now that I’ve explained what my new site will contain, and when I will be posting things there, I’d like to invite you to visit and follow my new author site, Lorraine Reguly: Laying It Out There. You might even want to sign up for my author newsletter. 🙂

And please do me a favour and share this post. It’s best if we’re all on the same page. Pun intended. 😉

Thank you.

~Lorraine

Characters with Disabilities: Does YOUR story have any?

 

This shows my two legs, the right one scarred from my two operations, the left one still healing from my recent surgery.

 

Think fast! Name five well-known fictional characters with disabilities. You cannot include Professor X.

You have one minute. Okay. Go.

Tick. Tick. Tick….

 

Time’s up!

 

How did you do? Don’t worry, if you couldn’t get five in under a minute. There aren’t very many to begin with.

Here’s a new question:  Of the ones you named, how many of them rely on one of these clichĂ©s for the character development?

  • The tragic figure
  • The angry whiner
  • The overprotective or absentee “caregiver”
  • The former badass
  • “My disability is a superpower,” “My disability is why I have this job,” or “My superpower makes my disability better.”
  • The desperate search for a cure

The problem with all of these scenarios is that they present disability as something that is always, unquestionably a tragedy.

The message is that any person with a disability must either fight against it, become a powerless victim, or become evil because of it. These stories aren’t written to represent the experiences of people with disabilities; they are written to explore the fears of able-bodied authors who have trouble conceiving a disability as anything more than a horror that lurks in the back of their minds.

There are people who view their disability as a tragedy — especially if they acquired a disability later in life. Most people with disabilities don’t think like that, and fiction writers are doing this community of diverse individuals a huge disservice by perpetuating stereotypes that play off of cultural fears about what it means to live with a disability.

There is a deeply rooted cultural bias that says any person whose body or mind functions differently from current norms is “special” or “less capable.” Sometimes that means a person is marginalized because of a disability. Other times it means the person is idealized as an “inspirational figure.”

It can be hard for able-bodied writers to get beyond the stereotypes, but writing is richer and stories are better when authors abandon cliches and purpose to write with authenticity about characters with diverse experiences and backgrounds.

The best example I have of a compelling character who breaks disability stereotypes is Geordi Laforge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Geordi is blind, and sometimes his blindness or the way his VISOR functions are relevant storylines of TNG, but Geordi’s story-purpose is to be an engineer. His job is to make sure that the Enterprise runs properly, and he chose to go into engineering because he was interested in the field. He didn’t choose engineering because it was an avenue open to a blind guy where other areas were closed or because he wanted to “break in” to a field where blind people weren’t normally allowed. He’s a talented engineer and capable scientist, but he’s not the only person on board the Enterprise who can do his job.

For me, every story is different, but those are the principles that I try to follow when I write characters with disabilities. I think I might start calling them the Geordi Principles.

  • Disability should be relevant, but not a defining characteristic.
  • Disability can be a challenge, but it should not be “the problem” that moves your story.
  • Disability can also be an asset, but it should not be idealized or the “solution” to the problem.
  • Characters with disabilities can and should be able to work at the same jobs other characters can do. There is no need to create “unique” positions that ONLY the “special” person can do, unless you’re writing a monomyth type hero who just happens to have a disability. The disability shouldn’t be a superpower or the reason your character is fit for his/her job.
  • Please, avoid the overprotective and absentee family members who can’t cope appropriately with a character’s health issues or desire for independence. This is insulting both to people with disabilities and the families who view them as capable individuals who should be treated with respect and dignity.

Redefining Disability artwork (c) Rose B. Fischer.

Back in February, I got into a discussion about disability in the media and how there just doesn’t seem to BE a whole lot. I’d like to change that, so I’m creating an interactive blog project. If you’re a writer or story creator interested in authentic representation for people with disabilities, please check out Redefining Disability. We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the points in this post, hosting discussions on a variety of issues related to creating characters with disabilities, and providing feedback for authors who have story content to share.

I would like to thank Lorraine for hosting me here on Wording Well and helping spread the word about this project. I hope you’ll check it out and join in the conversation.

 


rose b fisher picture

 

 

Rose B. Fischer is an experienced blogger and author of speculative fiction who is currently developing an interactive project to promote awareness and media representation for people with disabilities. She also reviews books!