Readability formulas: Useful or useless?

  title={Readability formulas: Useful or useless?},
  author={G. M. McClure},
  journal={IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication},
  • G. McClure
  • Published 1 March 1987
  • Art
  • IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
In an interview with Dr. J. Peter Kincaid, the value of readability formulas and computer editing systems to the engineer who writes on the job is explored. Dr. Kincaid developed the Kincaid Readability Formula, the standard used in judging the reading levels of Department of Defense manuals. The presentation is in a question and answer format. 

Figures from this paper

A Syntactic Approach to Readability

This article examines problems that readability formulas present to the technical communicator, especially in terms of interaction with government agencies, and focuses on readability formula requirements mandated by The Office of Health and Industry programs for medical technology product support literature.

The Readability Controversy: A Technical Writing Review

The author suggests that further research should be conducted to study empirically how readability as a concept might be used to aid the technical writer since readability formulas are shaping computerized editing programs.

Readability algorithms compability on multiple languages

This paper aims to test the compatibility of readability algorithms when using text written in dierent languages as parameters, the languages used is Swedish and English. A readability algorithm ai

Combining elegance and readability: Walker Gibson's tough, sweet, and stuffy

  • M. A. Whitney
  • Education
    IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
  • 1987
The author suggests that answers to some of the more difficult questions in the readability-formula debate may be found in W. Gibson's book, Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy (1966). Gibson, in his analysis

Abstract Analysis and Revision Assignment Using MS Word Readability Statistics

In teaching technical writing for nearly 20 years, I have recognized the importance of including writing assignments focused on improving students' clarity and effectiveness at the sentence level. I

Performance and Readability: A Comparison of Annual Reports of Profitable and Unprofitable Corporations

This study tested the relationship between performance and the readability of annual reports. Style analysis of 60 annual reports using a computer style analyzer revealed that the annual reports of

Readability of Texts: State of the Art

The aim of the present paper is to familiarize the readers with the most frequently used readability formulas as well as the pros and cons views toward the use of such formulas.


Families of computer systems for editing scientific and technical texts, which partially automate functions of human editor and thus help the writer to improve text quality are discussed.

Measuring Text Readability Using Reading Level

Reading Level is a calculation by formula which assigns a number to a text in order to represent the grade level at which a reader should be able to comprehend written English-language material to help alert presenters and instructors about the complexity of the material that is introduced.

Software Service with a Plug-in Architecture for Text Readability Assessment

The problem of developing a software service with a plug-in architecture for assessing the readability of text has been considered and the results of testing the service for text readability assessment have been presented.



Validation of the Automated Readability Index: A Follow-Up

Tested reading comprehension was lower for material written at the highest level of difficulty (16th grade), and was significantly correlated with scores previously obtained on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which can be considered a measure of general reading ability.

Usefulness of Readability Formulas for Achieving Army Readability Objectives: Research and State-of-the-Art Applied to the Army's Problem.

Requiring that text be written to satisfy a targeted reading grade level score focuses attention on meeting the score requirement rather than on organizing the material to meet the readers' information needs.

The Potential for Advanced Computerized Aids for Comprehensible Writing of Technical Documents.

An approach to advanced writing aids is described; such a system would base its criticisms on what is known about the cognition psychology of comprehension, and would make use of techniques from Artifical Intelligence for processing the language.

Derivation of New Readability Formulas (Automated Readability Index, Fog Count and Flesch Reading Ease Formula) for Navy Enlisted Personnel

Three readability formulas were recalculated to be more suitable for Navy use and resulted in a scaled reading grade level based on Navy personnel reading Navy training material and comprehending it.

The writer's workbench: Computer aids for text analysis

This paper describes the Writer's Workbench programs, which analyze English prose and suggest improvements. Some limited data on the use of the Writer's Workbench and its acceptance are also

Computer-Aided Editing — Present and Future

Three computer-aided editing systems which analyze English text and provide feedback to writers and editors for improving readability and comprehensibility and a discussion of future applications of the systems.

Operational Consequences of Literacy Gap.

Abstract : Air Force managers and supervisors often face problems caused by reading difficulties among their personnel. These usually appear to be a joint function of level of reading skill of the

Readabil ity Grade Norms for \A' School Training Materials,'* N a v a l Training Systems Center Technical Report

  • 1986

A Text Critiquing Tool Based on a Na tu ra l Languages Parser,*

  • Annua l Conference on Computers and Writ ing,
  • 1986