Writing at a 7th grade reading level?
Updated: Apr 7
It’s been many, many moons since I was in middle school, so why do I write as if I’m still in junior high?
The answer may surprise you.
According to The Literacy Project, “the average American reads at a 7th to 8th grade level”. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states “half of U.S. adults can’t read a book written at the 8th grade level.”
With such alarming statistics, I don’t want to alienate potential readers by writing my stories on a level above readers’ capabilities. The intent of my writing is to entertain and maybe toss in a little education into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that all my readers read on an elementary school level, far from it. And, I don’t want a reputation of being a “high brow” writer. Heaven forbid I use words, phrases and symbolism that only a literary scholar can decipher. I write to entertain and transform my reader out of their reality for a short period.
So, how is a reading level determined?
A reading ease score can be found by utilizing the most widely used reading and comprehensive reading scoring system: the Flesch Reading Ease Score and the Flesch Kinkaid Grade Level. An author or writer can obtain a reading score through the use of many online editing programs. My preferred editor is ProWritingAid. It produces a multi-layered assessment of my writing as well as a Flesch Reading Ease score. By-the-way, the Flesch Reading score for this post is 61.8, easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students.
So, the next time you read one of my short stories, novellas, novels, or even a blog post like this one, keep in mind that I’m not writing down to anyone’s level. I’m writing on a level that most readers can read comfortably.
I would like to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment in the Comment Box at the bottom of the page.
Additional Reading Sources
Lisa Marchand, “What is readability and why should content editors care about it?”
Center for Plain Language, March 22, 2017 https://centerforplainlanguage.org/what-is-readability/
What's the Latest US Literacy Rate
Valerie Strauss, “Hiding in plain sight: The adult literacy crisis,” Washington Post, Nov. 1, 2016
Reading the numbers: 130 million American adults have low literacy skills
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Stories with an LGBTQ+ Twist
corrupting readers since 2008
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