What does “grade reading level” mean?

Grade reading levels are research-based benchmarks that help teachers choose texts at suitable levels of difficulty for students at various reading ages.

You can use readability formulas to find out roughly how many years of education a person would need to fluently read the material you are drafting.

The formulas, such as Flesch-Kincaid and the SMOG index, are based on sentence length and the number of syllables in words. The longer the sentences are, and the more long words there are per sentence, the higher the grade reading level.

Beyond the formulas

Many factors that formulas can’t measure have a big impact on the reading level of a text. These factors include:

  • Organization and ease of navigation
  • Tone and ‘voice’
  • Sentence structure
  • Word familiarity
  • Use of graphics
  • Use of type and ‘white space’.

Read our quick tips to see how you can improve these features of your writing.

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