Assessing Readability in English

Thank you for helping patients become informed partners in their health!

The target reading level for patient materials is grade 6 to 8.

Tools to assess the readability of your text

There are several tools you can use to improve the readability of your documents. The Patient Education Network has developed a guide that provides tips for writing for patients and also explains how to use the Flesch-Kincaid tool with Microsoft Word (only for documents in English).

To assess the readability of a French text, please select the French version of this page.


What is Flesch-Kincaid?

Flesch-Kincaid is a simple tool available in Microsoft Word to assess the reading level of a section of text. The tool assesses two aspects of the text: reading ease and grade level.


What do the numbers mean?

Reading ease and grade level are given corresponding scores.

Flesch Reading Ease: the higher the score, the easier the text is to read. The  target score  is above 60, which is considered easily read and understood by students at the 8 - 9th grade level.


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: corresponds to the grade level (years of schooling) required to be able to read the text. The target score  is 6th grade or lower.


How do I use the Flesch-Kincaid tool available in Word?

1.  Open your document in Word.

2.  Select File from the top menu to open the side menu.

3.  Select Options (at the bottom) to open the Word Options window.

4.  Select Proofing from the side menu.

5.  Under the heading When Correcting spelling and grammar in Word, tick the box in front of Show readability statistics and click on OK.

6.  Highlight the portion of text that you would like to assess.

TIP: It is a good idea to assess smaller chunks of your document separately as well as the document as a whole. This will allow you to target "problem" areas.

Please Note: You will have difficulty assessing the content of tables. Copy and paste the contents into a new Word document to use the tool.

7.  Press on the F7 button to run a spell check.

8.  When a pop-up window appears (We're finished checking your selection. Want to check the rest of the document?), click on No.

9.   Your Readability Statistics will appear in a pop-up window. When done, click on OK to return to the content of the document.

TIP: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the original score before you edit the text. It is useful in order to compare it to the revised score after you have made your changes.

Free Training

You can request a training session on how to write/review for readability.

Editing for Readability

You can also ask a medical librarian for help to evaluate the reading level of your document or have a document edited for you.

Please contact the Patient and Family Resource Librarian at (514) 340-8222 ext. 22391 or  library.jgh@mail.mcgill.ca with the document(s) to be edited and we will respond as soon as possible (usually within three business days).

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