Is Your Writing Readable

Published: November 19, 2011

Updated: November 20, 2011

Do you write just to write or would you like people to read what you write? If you are writing on HubPages then I would assume that the later is true.

I decided to write this hub because I lately noticed a large number of hubs written as a single long paragraph. Although a writer may think that the correct way to write is to string everything together, this practice makes reading extremely difficult.

Academic writers attempt to limit paragraphs to between three and five sentences. A paragraph should contain a beginning, a main idea, and an ending. This minimum will meet the standards for a paragraph and increase the paragraph's readability. This paragraph, for instance, is only four sentences long.

An essay should contain at least five paragraphs. Informative articles or hubs should be constructed in essay fashion. A five paragraph essay is another writing standard. This form of essay should have a beginning paragraph, an ending paragraph, and three paragraphs in the middle to express the writer's ideas. You may notice that this paragraph is five sentences long.

Notice that the opening of this hub only contained two sentences. Although writing academically requires formatting paragraphs between three and five sentences, this is not academic writing. Isolated statements are sometimes permitted to highlight an idea. One target of readability is to keep the paragraphs short so the reader can easily follow the flow of the writing.

When paragraphs are too long, the reader can easily loose her place. She must then scan the paragraph to find the last thing she read to continue on. After moving through an article and getting lost a few times the average reader will move on to something else.

If you use the spelling checker in MS Word 2007 and above, the tool will report back certain statistics about what you wrote. I grabbed an article written as one long paragraph and ran the article through the spelling checker (always check the spelling on an article before posting that article) to gather a few statistics.

The spelling checker reported that the article contained 509 words contained in 23 paragraphs. The article is difficult to read because of the high number of sentences in the single paragraph. The check also reported an average word-length of 4.6 characters, which means that on average, the author did not fill the sentences with long words.

The checker also includes a section on reading ease. This contains a rating for the Flesch Reading Ease rating for checked text. The reading ease for the tested article rated at 55.3. According to the below scale, available from Readability Formulas, this article would rate as fairly difficult to read.

Flesch Readability Scale

90 - 100
very easy
80 - 89
70 - 79
fairly easy
60 - 69
50 - 59
fairly difficult
30 - 49
0 - 29
very confusing

The goal of a writer using this scale for an unknown audience would be a target between 60 and 80; the higher the number, the easier the text is to read. Since the article demonstrated a small average word-size, the fairly difficult rating must be attributed to the number of sentences in the paragraph.

The message is simple – write shorter paragraphs, run a spelling checker on text before publication, and aim for a high score on the Flesch scale if the spelling checker includes that rating.

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Comments 34 comments

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Thank you Angela for the comment,

I wrote this hub because I noticed large numbers of hubs written as a single paragraph while hub hopping. These hubs gave me headaches when I tried to read them so I thought I would write something to educate the uninformed.

Thanks again!

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

Great advice and I enjoyed the HUB immensely -- and definitely needed the head's up. I find myself getting sloppy and it's a HUB like this that truly gets my attention! Good work! Best, Sis

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Deborah Brooks,

You are very welcome!

Thank you for the vote of confidence and the comment. Welcome to HubPages -- I am sure you will enjoy the community.

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I am a new-bee on the HUB.. and thank you so much for researching and putting all this together.n I have book mark you and I am following you.. I voted up and awesome...really excellent.. article... thank you again

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Thanks for the comment, greatstuff! We learn something new every day.

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 5 years ago from Malaysia

Thanks for this useful info..I didnt know MS Word had the readability stats until I read your hub!

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Just For Fun,

I know some people take advantage of how things work. Thank you for your comment -- I appreciate all feedback, really, I do.

Just For Fun profile image

Just For Fun 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

Dumbledore, I know you didn't. I was pointing out another reason people do it, to get more clicks.

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

To Just For Fun,

I was in no way suggesting that a hub should contain only one paragraph; the point was to shorten the length of the paragraphs to increase the readability.

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Kieran Gracie 5 years ago

Good to be reminded of these basic writing rules. Thank you, Dumbledore. Voted UP and Useful.

I try to use headings as much as possible when writing articles online, and also try to summarize the gist of the article in those headings. The idea is to catch the attention of the 'skimmers' and encourage them to read the whole story!

Just For Fun profile image

Just For Fun 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

Many of the 1 paragraph hubs I've seen were designed that way to encourage people to click on more ads. IMO a short-sighted strategy, a hard way to make easy money.

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

I was not aware that this hub was featured in the Hub Weekly, I will have to try and find that. I inserted the Flesch Readability Scale by adding a table module from the edit hub page. Thanks all, for the comments.

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logic,commonsense 5 years ago

The 3 Stooges put it very succinctly, "I can read readin', but I can't read writin'."

capricornrising profile image

capricornrising 5 years ago from Wilmington, NC

I'm so glad the Hub Weekly featured your hub. Terrific, and I'm extremely curious about how you inserted the Flesch chart into your text!

teejes profile image

teejes 5 years ago

making our Writing Readable is important, because people can easy like our writing and then they bookmark or subcibride.

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

Your article gives great suggestions for readability of essays by limiting number of paragraphs and number of sentences in each. I know that one of the reasons I move on is because the text is hard to read. As a writer, I need to keep this in mind!

Do you have suggestions for applying some of this advice to fiction? I've found that it's difficult to read some of the fiction here because the text blocks are unbroken. While I wouldn't have a problem with this on paper, it's a lot harder to follow on the computer.

Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Nice hub with some good info. I'd forgotten about the Readability Scale, a useful tool.

crochet48 5 years ago

Dumbledore, I voted your Hub up. Very well written and badly needed information!

If the article I click on is riddled with errors, my trust level plummets. One long field of text combined with errors and I'm gone. Thank you!

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Ghaelach 5 years ago

Hi Dumbledore.

As has already been mentioned your hub is over due.

I always work with O-O opened (open office spell checker) this enables me to flip between HP and OO when i'm not sure of a word that i have written is correct.

There's a lot of interesting points in your hub that i hope to put into practice.

Does your theory go for these stories/hub that seem to be never ending ??

Also, as you say about the single long paragraph, are there rules for those poems that have 1,2,or 3 words to a line that take half the day to read??

Take care Dumbledore and have a nice day.

LOL Ghaelach

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Isn't it amazing how we learn the basics to make things work then we we feel we know what we are doing, we stop using the basics. Things fall apart and we realizing that the problem is that we stopped using the basics. Thanks for the comments and the votes!

Escobana profile image

Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia

Good stuff! Reading needs to be fun and entertaining. There's no fun in getting lost a long the way.

Voted up and away!

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey

Your hub makes many salient points. I know I helped traffic go up for one hub just two days ago:

I read another hub about increasing traffic. Over the months I forgot about using the "stats" feature to my advantage. So, I started looking at my hubs that were being viewed the most recently to see what could improve. I realized I was missing some key tags for what people searched under and that it was one of my only hubs that was only two modules and had no headings. So, I went back and put in section headings for readers to navigate through the text easier and added another sentence that was tailored to the reason people were coming to the article. Tada, more views.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 years ago

Good information and true to its writing. Thanks

Matthew Maktub profile image

Matthew Maktub 5 years ago from Las Vegas

Thanks for this hub. Good information to process.

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

I just added a section on spell-checkers to provide a sample method to test the readability of text.

Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

A hub that really needed to be written; hopefully those who are in the habit of posting one long paragraph will come here, read this and then change their ways.

Voted up and useful!

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

Excellent hub and thank you for sharing!

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Yes, this hub is useful! Even rules we think we know well need to be reviewed and a short hub like this one helps with that, as well as being helpful for rules we never understood before. This type hub also helps us review our work after reviewing a particular rule or set of rules.

Dumbledore profile image

Dumbledore 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio Author

Thank you everybody for the supportive comments. As I said, the reason I wrote this short hub was that I have noticed all the hubs that string on in one long paragraph. Trying to read some of these give me headaches.

I have also wandered if the reason for so many new hubs written this way might be the use of article spinners. If this is the case, spun articles will be easier to spot. But as one commenter stated, I just normally vote the hubs down and move on.

leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

If you place each paragraph into a separate capsule then editing is a lot easier to do. If you don't place titles then they appear as a single article. Also, I have a hard time reading long hubs on my smart phone. I may switch to my computer if the article is interesting and I have time.

LindaSmith1 profile image

LindaSmith1 5 years ago from USA

I vote this nonsense down and move on. One continuous sentence after sentence is garbage.

I just shared this all over the place, and in my blogs. Now, I will put link in the appropriate hubs I have.

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

This is a useful hub. I am definitely one that will not read a paragraph if it's too long.

adrienne2 profile image

adrienne2 5 years ago from Atlanta

Your hub is so true, and spot on. When paragraphs are to long the reader will move on after losing his/her place after several attempt to read the hub. Going forward I will be more mindful when writing hubs, I will admit to being guilty of the long paragraph syndrome. Thank you, and voted up!

wanzulfikri profile image

wanzulfikri 5 years ago from Malaysia

A short hub but truly useful. I find that readable hubs are the way to go. The ones with wall of never-ending text looks horrible for me. An article should be readable so that the information can be relayed well. Thanks again for the hub

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