Are Your Blog Readers Dumb?

blog readability levels

Put your dunce cap on!

If you have your blog or website analyzed, either with a free tool, or a professional, you will see some interesting metrics. You will receive a website grade and one of these measurements is readability level. So what is the optimal reading level for a blog? Meaning, what is the level of schooling one would need to comprehend your content? Let’s find out.

Are Your Readers Dumb?

 

Don’t be ridiculous. Of course your readers are not dumb. Content on your blog however, needs to be easily consumed and therefore have a readability level of elementary/primary school.

This is for the sole purpose of allowing content to be understood across several realms. For instance, if your blog is in English and you have traffic from other countries, you need to ensure information is presented so everyone can easily understand.

It’s necessary to think outside the box in terms of your audience. Yes, you can consider whether they are male/female, where they are from, age…blah blah blah.

You need to also consider that some of your readers will have cognitive learning disabilities, some may be audio learners and have the information read to them, some may even be blind. Blind visitors need to understand the words being spoken to them which is another damn good reason to have the “alt” attribute for photos.

Remember, we write for humans first and search engines second. Now, I am not dumb or stupid or ignorant by any stretch of the imagination. But I have left some blogs because I couldn’t understand what the heck they were talking about! It was an explosion of words that I needed a dictionary or Alex Trebec to understand.

Web Rules

 

Did you know that there are actual web rules or rather, guidelines for websites? It’s actually called the Web Content Accessability Guidelines. Guideline #14 is to ensure that documents are clear and simple.

If the world wide web says you should make content easy to understand, then don’t you think you should do it?! There are actually a couple different readability tests that can determine your blog/website levels.

Readability Tests

 

The main readability tests used for these purposes are; Gunning-Fog Index, Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid. All three are based on different algorithms and the results returned are somewhat different.

To give you an idea of how one of these tests displays results, I have included below a graph which includes some materials along with a number. The number in the Gunning-Fog index represents how many years of schooling one would need to digest the information.

Typical Fog Index Scores
Fog Index Resources
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader’s Digest
8 – 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 – 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can’t ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up

You can see from the above chart that if your site returns a 30 or higher, you better check your phone for FBI taps!

The Bottom Line

I continue to say that running a blog is not rocket science. So you better not be presenting your content as such either. Break up your paragraphs into easy chunks of information. Don’t make me “phone a friend” to figure out what you mean.

Think about every possible person that could be reading your blog. Like Denzel Washington said in the movie Philadelphia, ‘explain it to me like I’m a 4 year old.” Write as if your explaining something to someone who has never heard one word of your topic.

Okay, your turn now. Use this free tool to find your blog readability level. This tool will give you results for several readability tests. Were you surprised at your results?

Let me know your thoughts and NO my readers are not dumb. :) I am thrilled to be a grade 4 blog!

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42 Responses to “Are Your Blog Readers Dumb?”

  1. January 31, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    very apt post lisa! infact we need to engage our audience not only on the content front but also on the subconscious level .
    Research has shown that of all the fonts, Georgia and Verdana are the most redable and the human eyes can grasp the content without stressing on “trying to scan the text” . such readers not only stay a lot longer on the site to check out other posts but also decrease bounce rate and post comments :)
    Also having a simple layout and lesser flashy ads aids in captivating the audience, and i applaud your blog for that :)

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 31, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      Hi Rohan!

      Yes indeed the less flashy the better!!! Thanks for your input

      regards,
      Lisa

  2. January 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Great blog post,I found it interesting and did the test. My blog was a grade 8, I don’t feel it’s too technical though, so I’m guessing an 8 isn’t too bad? Thanks for Sharing!
    Manda

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      Manda:

      Grade 8 is good to go!! Well done. Thanks for visiting my blog and for sharing the results of your test!

      Cheers,
      Lisa

  3. January 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Fascinating, Lisa!

    I’ve been (trying hard) to tell fellow bloggers, forever, that you need to write at about an 8th-grade level and there’s a darn good reason for that. Couldn’t ever seem to get anyone to go along with my thinking. Then your post came along and HOORAY!

    Tested my blog’s readability and here’s my score (I’m proud to report!):

    This page has an average grade level of about 7.

    It should be easily understood by 12 to 13 year olds.

    Time to do the happy dance! :)

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 17, 2011 at 12:52 am #

      YAY Melanie…can I do the happy dance too?? things are always better in groups, right?? :)

      I think it is so important to make sure that everyone in our respective audiences can comprehend what we are saying. I’m glad you agree!!

      Pleasure to have you here,
      Lisa

  4. January 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Lisa,

    I took the test. It was really fun! I have a readability of 6. Whew!

    There are 3 parts to this. Even though someone is intelligent they do not want to come upon words that they do not fully understand.

    Keeping things simple make your posts easy to scan.

    The simplicity makes it fun! and not so serious.

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 17, 2011 at 12:55 am #

      You nailed it! That’s how I feel when I visit a site. I don;t want to have to dissect each word to “get it.” Your blog scored well!! Yay for 4th-6th graders!

      All my best,
      Lisa

  5. January 16, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    Hmmm after reading your post. i am happy to say that my reader is dump.lol

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

      Nah!!! They “get you!”

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Lisa

  6. January 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Very interesting Lisa.

    Have you used the Hubspot.com Grader? It also has a readability level. In one of their recent posts, one of the commentors ask about how the levels were assigned. I wish I could find it and pass on your thoughtful information.

    Thanks.

  7. January 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    Hey Lisa, I really enjoyed reading about this. There was another post I read on someone else’s blog that mentioned you should write like how you speak in real life. That’s basically what I do.

    I definitely believe it writing so that it’s as simple as possible for your readers to understand. After all, people don’t really read… they scan. If there are too many big words or complicated sentence structures… people will be turned off by it (most likely).

    Thanks Lisa!

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      Elise:

      One thing I can say about you is that when you write, I can just hear the personality oozing out of your words! you have a gift and the best thing is that while I learn stuff from you, I have a great time reading it too. I would say you have this under control…I mean people being able to understand what you have said. OMG, did I gush enough??? :)

      Pleasure to see you back here!
      Lisa

  8. January 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Hey Lisa,

    Thanks for the grade 4 article!

    I totally agree with you. Whenever I first started blogging I had a different opinion though. I believed I had to be a rocket scientist to stand out. Now I know that is far from true when it comes to blogging. It’s more about expressing your personality throughout your blog. You should write like a scientist. You should just write how you enjoy. Enjoy blogging it is meant to be fun. Blogging isn’t meant to give you a headache everyday!

    Thanks again!

    God bless,
    William Veasley

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

      William:

      You are absolutely right!! I should not get a headache reading or writing! I appreciate your input and thanks for stopping by!

      Lisa

  9. January 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    True that! Sometimes what you might find as simple your readers wont find it that way. You always have to dumb it down for them

  10. January 15, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Very cool tool indeed; gave it a whirl on a few urls averaging a grade 6; which I think is good! In my profession we were always told SIMPLIFY. Though Some of the the longer posts did hit grade 8… so may need to work on that.

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 15, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      I think you’re on the right path then!! I do think simplicity works well for us bloggers, and I also think grade 8 is just fine!! We still have to communicate with the smarty pants people too!

      Thank you for stopping by and pleasure to have you here,

      Lisa

  11. January 15, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Great post Lisa. My blog got an average grade level of 6, so my writing mus be pretty elementary :P

    As you mention readability is good whether you’re writing a sales page or a blog post. If people get confused they’ll be quickly turned off and never come back – not what we want (obviously).

    I love the tool you gave. Microsoft Word does the same kind of thing but I use Pages on my Mac and prefer it, so you just saved me a good amount of time – thanks a ton!

  12. January 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    i mean that your title should be attractive and SEO friendly and also questions make visitors disturb and more ………….

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

      Hi again and thanks for the response. If you will notice, I have a human interested title and an SEO title which can be seen in the top bar. I have to disagree with you on asking questions in titles simply because it peaks people’s curiosity. Catchy or controversial headlines grab readers attention. My goal is to write for the reader first and search engines second.

      Thanks again for your feedback!

      Lisa

      • January 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

        hi again,
        i don’t talk about seo
        i talk about readers and about you
        when i ask you a question you will answer me ( yes, no, i don’t do, i will do’ ……) and i will leave the topic
        all i mean that i wanna you take care about readers and time they spend in your nice blog.
        lol …. i am happy talking with you baby.

        yaso

  13. January 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    this article is very good but i have a notice on your article title
    to make good titles you should not write titles as questions and the answers of it be yes or no .
    i hope you see that

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      Hi there:

      Thank you for your feedback. Can you explain more of what you mean by this?

      Have a good one!

      Lisa

  14. January 14, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Cool, I’ve just done the readability test, and the results are all green :)
    That might be due to me not being a native English speaker, so even if I wanted to make my site sound complex, I wouldn’t be able to :D

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 14, 2011 at 11:45 am #

      Lol Amr! I know that you have some in depth tutorials on your site so you should have had some grade results displayed. Like you said though, it could be because there is a lot of German on your site and I believe these tests are measured purely in English.

      Thanks for commenting Amr, always a pleasure,
      Lisa

  15. January 14, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Nice tool, at least we can check how easy it is to read for any person. And accordingly we can make adjustment too…;)

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 14, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      Shailender:

      Yes we can adjust accordingly. I think any tool that helps us to reach more people is a great benefit.

      Thanks for your input,

      Lisa

  16. January 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Cool little test Lisa. I turned out to be a level 6, which is good with me. I pride my writings to be down to earth, easy to understand, and relevant to average Joes and Janes.

    Like the saying goes, Keep It Simple Stupid…or It’s Dumb Not To Dumb It Down

    Thanks for the post. :-)

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Marcus:

      I have never heard “it’s dumb not to dumb it down!” I love it. Level 6 is excellent as I think that classifies you as genius!! :)

      You should totally pride yourself on addressing the everyday Jane and Joes. I find your content interesting and fun to read so you must be doing something right.

      Always a pleasure Marcus,
      Lisa

  17. January 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Usually people talk about this stuff as if writing for a 4th grader is a bad thing. In fact, I think these measurements were devised so that the writer has something to aim at.

    Im glad you caught the point of actually writing at a lowest grade possible. Now, I dont believe in writing-down, but I dont believe in making things unnecessarily complicated which is what most writers, most often, tend to do.

    Einstein said: Make things as simple as possible, but not any simpler.

    I think old Al would make a wonderful blogger :-)

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

      Dino:

      You are so right. Could you imagine a world for a moment with Al as a blogger?! Beautiful.
      I think some bloggers tend to think if they sound all scholarly that people will take them more seriously. When in all reality, it makes people run only because they dont want complications. Easy and quick (uhmm…) you know what I mean! People want their information and they want it now. They dont want to have to work for it.

      thanks Dino, love seeing you here,
      Lisa

      • January 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

        I love being here….I really enjoy your blog.

        Now, regarding your point about scholarly writing. I think its funny because as a culture, the second we encounter words like “intellectual”, “thesis”, “philosophical”, ,…”scholarly” is also a good example…most people’s eyes glaze over and they automatically tune out.

        Something about our school system really makes people hate intellectualism with passion…our heros are dumb jocks and Kim Kardashians of the world….

        Perhaps that warrants a post on its own? lol

        • Lisa Drubec
          January 13, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

          You hit the nail on the head with that one Dino! kardashians and kobe’s!

  18. January 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Hey Lisa, nice post!
    Again, something to ponder as I would have never thought of this and you come up with all kinds of cool things to be aware of…:)
    After submitting my site, I now wonder, do I write like a 7th grader, or have I just subconsciously written an easily understood article?
    Is my intelligence level (or lack thereof) showing here?
    Check out my findings:
    Readability Results

    Web Address: http://InstantCashAtHomeSystem.com
    This page has an average grade level of about 7.

    It should be easily understood by 12 to 13 year olds.

    Tweet this result!

    Readability Indices

    Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease 62.7
    Flesch Kincaid Grade Level 5.9
    Gunning Fog Score 4.7
    SMOG Index 5.2
    Coleman Liau Index 13.3
    Automated Readability Index 4.7

    Should be interesting to see the results of others compared to mine.
    Thanks!

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Dan:

      Your results are higher than mine!! LOL…you are a genius. I think your results are good and makes it easy for people to understand your concepts.
      When I did my test, I thought “im a smarty, it’s gonna be college level for sure.” Nope. It said 4th grade! The main thing with these tests is that they calculate based on word structure and sentence length.
      I think you’re pretty intelligent Dan so no worries there!

      have a great day,
      Lisa

  19. January 13, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    I always worry that I’m going to go too far in the other direction, and rather than simply explaining something well, I’m going to annoy the reader by piling on lots of stuff they already know. Consequently, I’ve sometimes been asked to “dumb down” articles I’ve written for others. (Or maybe that’s because I used words like consequently. Hmmm.)

    I disagree that you should try to write for everyone, though. Your blog has a target market. Write for them. Trying to accommodate everyone ultimately ends up pleasing no one at all.

    • Lisa Drubec
      January 13, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      Hi Cindy:

      I should have probably explained that I meant everyone in your target audience. I agree we cant write for everone…we wouldn’t accompish anything with that and actually, I dont know if it can be done!

      Thanks for your feedback and I think you do a great job of explaining. And yes, consequently could be the culprit here.

      Have a great day,
      Lisa

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