Using the Flesch Reading Ease Score to Help Reach Target Audiences

17 Jan 2023


One of the most common pieces of writing advice says something along the lines of, “Write with the target audience in mind.” Indeed, keeping the target audience in mind is sound advice. But this advice seems rather esoteric since there is no objective way of determining a text’s appropriateness.

Or is there?

Enter the Flesch Reading Ease Score. This article will discuss what the Flesch score is and how it can help writers reach their target audiences more effectively.

So, sit back and relax because highly useful information is coming up.

What is the Flesch Reading Ease Score?

The Flesch Reading Ease Score refers to the value a text receives based on its readability. This score reflects the degree of ease with which a person can comprehend the prose contained within a text. Please note that this score does not mean a text is “easy” or “hard.” It reflects a text’s overall organization and structure to assess an approximate reading level.

A Flesch score can become a highly useful writing tool since it allows writers to assess a text’s reading level.

If a writer intends to reach a general audience, the Flesch score must reflect this target audience. Similarly, if a writer intends to reach a specialized audience, the text’s Flesch score must also reflect it.

Please note that there are two specific valuations to consider:

  • The Flesch Reading Ease Score measures a text’s overall readability. It measures a text’s sentences and paragraph structure to derive a total score.
  • The Flesch Kincaid Grade Level determines a text’s approximate grade reading level. It measures words, sentences, and syllables to calculate reading level.

Scores range from 0 to 100. A score of 70 to 80 is roughly equivalent to an eighth-grade reading level. An eighth- or ninth-grade reading level would be most appropriate for a general audience. Please note that the higher the score, the more readable a text is.

How is the Flesch score calculated?

There are two ways different formulas to calculate Flesch scores. Flesch Reading Ease Score and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level.

Flesch Reading Ease Score.

This formula uses total words, sentences, and syllables to calculate the score. There is a use of constants in the formula that adjusts the text based on specific parameters. Here is the formula:

Flesch Reading Ease = 206.835 – 1.015 (total words / total sentences) – 84.6 (total syllables / total words)

The result determines a text’s overall readability.

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level.

This formula uses similar variables as the Flesch Reading Ease Score. The difference lies in the constant parameters used to assess reading level. Here is the formula:

Flesch Reading Ease = 0.39 (total words / total sentences) + 11.8 (total syllables / total words) – 15.59

The formula determines a text’s overall reading level. The numerical value can be used to provide an objective view of a text’s complexity.

It is worth noting that modern writing strives to become more economical and concise. This trend is particularly true when compared to older texts, which tend to be more ornate and extensive. While fiction writing may still use this style, nonfiction writing aims to say as much as possible in as little space as possible.

What does a Flesch score mean?

Flesch scores reflect an English language text’s readability based on the U.S. educational system. In other words, the original analysis that went into developing these formulas was based on American English.

This concept does not mean that Flesch scores are inappropriate for British audiences. However, stylistic differences can play a role in determining Flesch scores.

On the whole, a Flesch score close to zero indicates an extremely difficult text to read. This valuation is the result of a longer sentence and word length. Naturally, longer words and sentences contain more syllables, leading to a lower score.

In contrast, a higher Flesch score indicates a text that is easier to read. This score is the result of shorter sentences and words. Hence, the use of fewer syllables per sentence leads to an increased score. Additionally, the constant weights in each formula help adjust an individual text’s structure to reflect its particular reading ease and grade level.

Here are some key considerations:

  • A Flesch Reading Ease Score of between 60 to 70 is equivalent to a reading level appropriate for 13- to 15-year-olds. As a result, a text in this range would be easily understood by approximately 90% of adult readers in the United States.
  • The Flesch Kincaid model measures three main reading levels: basic, average, and skilled. Basic levels 2 through 6 would be appropriate for someone learning to read. This level could include children and adults learning English. The average levels 7 to 12 encompass a larger number of texts. For instance, the Harry Potter series would fall under an average reading level. Lastly, the skilled levels of 13 to 18 are reserved for complex texts such as academic papers.

The consensus is to aim for an eighth-grade reading level, as this level ensures that roughly 80% of adults can read easily read a text.

Is there a relationship between the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level score?

In short, there is no direct correlation between both scores.

A conversion table is needed to derive a reading ease score from a grade level reading score and vice-versa. Ideally, the best course of action is to calculate both scores separately.

In doing so, it is possible to assess a text’s readability and grade level reading.

For what should the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level and Flesch Reading Ease scores be used?

Now, more than ever, writers and editors are turning to objective metrics to reach their target audiences more effectively. While there is always a place for a tuned “ear” when it comes to adjusting a text for readability, experience is the best teacher for writers and editors.

Nevertheless, the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level scores can be highly useful in the following areas:

  • Copywriting for websites
  • Marketing copy, including product advertisements and descriptions
  • Producing clear and concise terms and conditions
  • Avoiding “legalese” in user agreements
  • Improving search engine optimization (SEO) across various types of materials
  • Selecting learning and training materials based on the type of workers
  • Editing texts, particularly those intended for general audiences
  • Adjusting technical documentation for non-technical specialists
  • Creating educational and training material to suit specific needs
  • General writing such as press releases, public information, or short article writing

Flesch reading scores have become increasingly useful across many disciplines. Individuals and organizations have come to rely on this objective data to tailor materials to suit their audience’s needs and reading level.

What are the benefits of using the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level scores?

In addition to clearer writing, there are a number of key benefits that come from using the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level scores:

  • Increased user engagement. Clear and easy-to-understand writing is a great way to boost user engagement. This effect is especially true when looking to increase the number of users on a website or the number of users interacting with certain materials. For instance, materials that resonate with a user’s reading level will ensure a much more positive experience.
  • Increased time on site. Marketing experts strive to develop materials to keep visitors on a site longer. In particular, the aim is to keep users on as long as possible so that interaction with advertising increases. For example, the longer a user stays on a blog, the more chances the site has to expose them to advertising materials.
  • Content delivered to the target audience. When text readability is inappropriate, the content may fail to reach readers. As a result, the content’s aim may fail to materialize. For instance, product information that is too hard to read may cause readers to disregard it, leading to product complaints down the road. Adjusting the text’s readability allows users to answer more questions before purchasing the product. As a result, this approach can reduce the number of product complaints.
  • Shared content. When content is easy to read and understand, users can easily share it with others. This result stems from people intuitively knowing that others will understand the message as they did. In contrast, a text that is too hard to read discourages readers from sharing it. After all, why would anyone share something they do not understand? For example, posting material on social media requires a general reading level to ensure others can share it or repost it.
  • Exploration encouraged. Easy-to-read materials encourage exploration since the material does not require a significant effort to consume. This approach is especially useful for websites, materials, and content that depend on increased user engagement. For instance, a blog’s success depends on reader engagement. Therefore, ensuring that the prose matches its target audience ensures that audiences will increasingly interact with the material.

Please note that saving valuable writing space is a key benefit that comes from concise writing.

Considering how stretched people’s attention spans are, concise writing ensures the message gets across without wasting priceless time.

Additionally, short-form and long-form content can greatly benefit from reading scores.

Short-form content can use reading ease to reduce the time and space needed to convey a message.

Similarly, long-form content can maximize its space to deliver as much content in as little time and space as possible.

Calculating a Text’s Flesch Reading Ease Score

Manually calculating a text’s readability can be a laborious task. After all, counting the number of words, sentences, and syllables can become quite time-consuming. Given the limitations of human computation, doing so manually can lead to a significant degree of error.

Luckily, technology has afforded writers and editors several free tools to calculate readability. The calculator at has been used to calculate this text’s readability.

The tool is a free online tool. It scans texts between 150 and 3,000 words, and compares Flesch Reading Ease scores along with other known reading scales and scores. Ultimately, writers and editors can compare what the text shows based on its results.

Please note that there are other paid tools out there. The difference lies in the degree of metrics provided. Also, more robust tools offer suggestions and edits to improve readability scores. While these tools do not replace the human eye, they are certainly useful for inexperienced writers or non-writers. Furthermore, automated tools can help reduce fatigue when checking multiple texts.

Here is what the analysis of this text revealed:

  • A Flesch Reading Ease score of 57.2. The tool classifies this text as “fairly difficult to read.” Since it is slightly below the 60 threshold, it is safe to assume it is appropriate for a general audience.
  • A Flesch Kincaid classification of 8.7, rounded to a ninth-grade reading level. As with the Flesch Reading Ease score, it is safe to assume that this text is appropriate for most adult readers in the United States.

The additional scales calculated were fairly consistent in placing this text around the ninth-grade reading level. Only one of the other scales placed this text at a 12-grade reading level.

The final consensus indicates this text is at a ninth-grade reading level. It is considered fairly difficult to read, but it is appropriate for 13- to 15-year-olds at an eighth- or ninth- grade reading level.

One Final Thought

There is no way to replace the role of the human mind. As of today, the human brain is a vastly superior machine in the language domain. No computer can replace the creativity of the human mind. While some experts claim that artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be able to replace the human spirit, AI is not there yet.

Ultimately, automated tools can be a great way to help writers and editors improve their writing by saving precious mental energy. Using these tools can greatly enhance a text’s overall effectiveness while helping writers and editors become the best professionals they can be.

Zach Richter 

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