How do I choose the right reading level for my audience?

The Grade Reading Level that you aim for depends on:

  • The reading ability of your audience
  • How familiar the readers are with the subject matter
  • How motivated they are to understand and act on the information you are giving them.

If you have a highly educated audience, don’t assume that you should write at a college reading level! Unless they are reading specialized information in a discipline they were trained for, people prefer to read several grades below their actual level of education. In fact, most mass-circulation publications such as newspapers, magazines, and popular works of fiction are written at a Grade 7 – 10 reading level. In today’s world, people don’t want to wade through dense, complex prose. Everyone has too much information to cope with.

This chart shows the reading level ranges that plain language experts recommend for public information:

Grade reading level Type of information
Grade 5 – 6 Essential information for a diverse public, including marginal readers and people who are learning English as a second language
Grade 7 – 9 Information intended for the general public that introduces new terms and concepts or specialized subject matter
Grade 10 – 12


Specialized information intended for an audience of fluent readers
Grade 13 – 15 Specialized information for an audience that is well-informed in the subject area

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