How to improve your text’s readability using the Flesch reading ease score

In the SEO analysis in our Yoast SEO plugin, we tell you what your copy scores in the Flesch reading ease test. But what exactly does this score mean for your text and for your SEO? What does this test measure? And how can you improve your text based on this score? Let’s explore!

Readability is important for SEO

It’s very important to take readability into account when writing web copy. Why? If your text is too complicated, it might be too hard to understand for your audience. It may take them longer to grasp what you’re trying to say, and that increases the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. Otherwise, your visitors might go search for information elsewhere. And a high bounce rate might lead to a lower rank in the long run. That’s why you should aim to write as clearly as possible.

So, it’s important to write readable texts, but it’s also quite difficult. This is because readability depends on a lot of factors. To help you write copy that’s easy to read and understand, the Yoast SEO plugin runs several kinds of checks. For example, the plugin checks if you use enough transition words, if you don’t overuse the passive voice, and it measures your text’s Flesch reading ease score.

What does the Flesch reading ease test measure?

The Flesch reading ease test measures the readability of a text. The test was originally developed to measure the readability of an English text. However, in the Yoast SEO plugin, we also provide reliable scores for several other languages. The Flesch reading ease test uses two variables to determine the readability score:

  • the average length of your sentences (measured by the number of words)
  • the average number of syllables per word

It then provides you with a score between 0 and 100, where a score of 100 means your copy is very easy to read, and a score of 0 means your text is very difficult to read. Scores can be interpreted as shown in the table below.

Score  Notes
90-100 very easy to read, easily understood by an average 11-year-old student
80-90 easy to read
70-80 fairly easy to read
60-70 easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students
50-60 fairly difficult to read
30-50 difficult to read, best understood by college graduates
0-30 very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates

source: Wikipedia.com

So, a text with a very high Flesch reading ease score is straightforward and easy to read, with short sentences and almost no words of more than two syllables. A text with a very low Flesch reading ease score consists mostly of very long sentences and a lot of complex words.

For web copy, a reading ease score of 60-70 is usually considered acceptable. That’s why you’ll get a green bullet in the Yoast SEO plugin if your text’s reading ease score is higher than 60.

Learn more about this check in Yoast SEO in our explanation of the Flesch Reading Ease assessment.

How to improve your reading ease score

As mentioned before, the Flesch reading ease test checks two things to determine your reading ease score: the length of your sentences, and the length of your words. The shorter your sentences and words, the higher your reading ease score. So, to improve your reading ease score, you should shorten your sentences and limit long, difficult words.

1. Shorten your sentences

Research has shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. Let’s take a look at an example:

My favorite place to visit during weekends is my grandparents’ house near the lake, where we love to fish and swim, and we often take the boat out on the lake.

You’ll notice that it’s confusing to read this sentence, because of its length. It takes a long time to process the information presented in the sentence. Breaking the sentence into two or more sentences can make your writing more clear and interesting:

My favorite place to visit during weekends is my grandparents’ house. It’s near the lake, where we love to fish and swim. We also often take the boat out on the lake.

See, this sentence is much easier to process! Using short sentences keeps the subject clear and allows your readers to actually absorb the information your presenting. So, try to break down long sentences and your text will be much easier to read.

2. Limit difficult words

If you use too many difficult words, you might scare off your readers. Words with four or more syllables are considered difficult to read, so try to avoid them where possible. For example, try words like small instead of minuscule, about instead of approximately, and use instead of utilize.

If you want to reach a broad audience, you should also try to avoid using jargon, or insider vocabulary. If you’re a medical expert, you’re probably familiar with terms like analgesic, intravenous, and oophorectomy. However, try to keep in mind that most people aren’t. Avoid insider language when you can. If you can’t find a better alternative, make sure to provide an explanation for users who might not know the word.

Use common sense

There are a few side notes we have to make regarding the Flesch reading ease score. First of all, language isn’t math. The readability of a text can never be fully measured with just a simple formula. Keep in mind that readability depends on a lot of factors, not just on the length of your sentences and words.

Also, this test doesn’t take your writing style or audience into account. We know there are industries where the language used is totally different from what ordinary people would use. That’s perfectly fine. Try to use the score as a guideline and always use common sense when interpreting the Flesch readability ease score.