Are You Smart Enough For This Article?: Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scoring
It All Began With a Mark Cuban Tweet
Recently while browsing Twitter I came across a “tweet” from Mark Cuban (yes, that Mark Cuban) that referred to a website entitled The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective and specifically an articled called The Reading Level of Sports Writing by Ben Blatt. To make a long story short, Blatt performed an analysis using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to compare the level of reading ability it took to fully understand a sports column as opposed to other sections of a news paper including opinion, business, science, politics, and arts. The Flesch-Kincaid scoring system basically assigns a “grade level” required to understand a written article with an equation that factors in word count, number of sentences, and number of syllables weighted with different factors likely figured out by really smart people whose articles most of us could not comprehend. To no surprise, sports columns generally ranked last out of the studied groups with an average Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 8.3 when using the New York Times as a point of reference. For comparison, opinion, business, and science all came in at over grade 10 followed by politics, arts and sports in that order. Does that mean that sports writers are dummies or are these genre or articles written to appeal to as many people as possible regardless of their education level?
Thanks to Mr. Cuban, I have officially become obsessed with this as an evaluation tool for my own articles, hubs, and scholastic papers I have written and decided to search for an easy way to do this online so I didn’t have to count how many sentences and syllables I used in an entire 1000 plus word article. Also, I thought it would be fun to use some of my hubs on this website to use for scoring my writing and also to see if there was any correlation to each articles “hub score”. In short, does a higher readability (lower grade level) create a less read article or does the higher grade level actually harm a hub’s wide ranged popularity due to higher reading difficulty?
To be able to conduct this unscientific experiment on my own Hub Page articles, I first had to find a website that I could easily upload an article from MS word or at very least copy and paste the text directly to the site. Thankfully, this was quite easy to find and began analyzing some articles I have written for Hub Pages since I joined in October 2011. To be as fair as possible I decided on 4 articles; the first two are my highest scoring (hubscore) non-recipe Hub Page articles Money Saving Mom + Money Saving Dad = Money Saving Kids: Managing Money and Saving Extra Doing Small Every Day Things, and Should Americans Be Learning Foreign Languages Starting in Kindergarten? ¿Español que aprende en jardín de la infancia? And two more scholastic articles that I have published that I also handed in for grades while pursuing my MBA; Demand for Diesel, and U.S. Payment Systems and the Federal Reserve, both of which I believe I got A grades. In the table below, I got my Flesch-Kincaid scores calculated at readability-score.com.
Readers / Days Since Published (popularity)
Hub Score (Article Quality)
Flesch Kincaid Readability Grade Level (years of education)
Money Saving Mom + Money Saving Dad = Money Saving Kids: Managing Money and Saving Extra Doing Small Every Day Things
Should Americans Be Learning Foreign Languages Starting in Kindergarten? ¿Español que aprende en jardín de la infancia?
Demand For Diesel
U.S. Payment Systems and the Federal Reserve,
Statistics as of 5-23-12
Well, the factors that my analysis obviously leave out and are difficult to know for certain are factors such as, general interest in the topic matter, attractiveness of title, popularity of website it is published on, search engine optimization, and proper promotion of the articles. Regardless of how well written or easy to understand an article is, it doesn't matter if no one knows it exists or even worse care if it exists. The Flesch-Kincaid grade level analysis also cannot determine how well written an article is, only how difficult the words may be to read or how complex the sentences used are. The only way the quality of the article can be determined is by reading it which doesn't factor into the analysis I performed. This says a lot for the importance of an attention grabbing article title, a topical and long lasting subject, as well as talent for SEO and promotion of said article.
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