- Author: Cynthia Kintigh
If you attended one of Bob Johnson's "Writing Right for the Web" workshops last April you know that one of the key take-aways was the importance of writing clear, concise, customer-centered content. Short sentences, bullet lists, short paragraphs, and space for the eye to rest all contribute to making your content Web-friendly.
I recently discovered a feature in Word that is pretty helpful when writing for the Web. The Readability Analysis Tool is buried in your spelling preferences. Once activated the tool tracks:
- Sentences per paragraph
- Words per sentence
- Characters per word
- Passive sentences
This information alone will help keep your writing clear, succinct, and active - all keeping your content Web-friendly.
Your writing is also given Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level scores.
The formula for the Flesch Reading Ease score evaluates average sentence length and the average number of syllables per word. Text is rated on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand. For most standard documents, experts suggest that you aim for a score of 60 to 70.
After running the tool, if I find the score on my copy is not where I want it to be for the audience, simply shortening the sentences and paragraphs, re-working text to include bullet points, and re-writing any passive sentences, will alter the score.
Here's how to access the Readability Analysis Tool in Word 2004 for the Mac. Under the Word menu, select Preferences, then select Spelling and Grammar.
Then check the box next to Check Grammar with Spelling. The option Show Readability Statistics will then be enabled, click that box as well, then click OK.
If you're using Word 2003 for Windows: On the Tools menu, select Options. Select the Spelling and Grammar tab. Again, check the box next to Check Spelling with Grammar, then check the box next to Show Readability Statistics, then click OK.
After you change these settings, you'll automatically get Readability Statistics every time you run a spell check.
If you're using a Mac, you'll also notice that you can change the Writing Style settings in this same Preferences window. The default setting is Standard but there are settings for Technical, Formal, Casual, and Custom.
In both versions of Word, you can also change the settings for other grammar options, such as checking for the last serial comma, the number of spaces between sentences, jargon, gender-specific words, and sentence-length.
On the Windows version, these settings are accessed under Settings.
As always, use this as a guide - the software can't do your thinking for you.
I always copy my finished content from the Web editor in the ANR Blog system or Site Builder into Word and run the spelling and grammar check from there. You never want to compose in Word and copy and paste into the editor - all of the coding that works behind the scenes in Word will make a mess of your copy in the Web editor.