Flesch-Kincaid grade level?

In ms word, it shows me that I’m apparently writing on a 12th grade level. That’s good; I’m a senior. But how accurate is the formula used to compute this, and if possible, for curiosity’s sake, what is it?

No, it isn’t good. Good writing is usually on a 8-9 grade level (and often below). IIRC, Scientific American isn’t even on a 12th grade level.

What the level means, in theory, is that you need to have that much education in order to read it. A high score means the writing is confusing and hard to understand. You want to work to lower your score – shorter sentences, more direct expression – or your writing will be difficult to read.

Well, wouldn’t that mean that it’s OK for this paper? After all, the intended audience is my lit teacher.

Well, if your teacher is one of those people who grades by how complex you make your sentences and how many unnecessarily big words you throw in, then yes you’re probably on the right track. If your teacher grades based on how clearly you state your thesis and how well you back it up, then you might want to scale it back a bit.

It kind of works this way in the professional world as well (I write advertisements). For the salespeople and account executives, I throw in lots of bullshit words that they don’t know the meaning of but sound like they came off the cover of Businessweek, and they always go for it. For the actual ads, however, I try to keep everything interesting, but very clear and fairly simple.

Whatever you do, don’t fake it. Even if the reader doesn’t quite follow what you’re talking about, it’s really easy to see the difference in your writing when you understand what you’re writing about and when you don’t. My co-worker and I do this occasionally when we’re writing drafts about something technical, and we almost always catch each other. If your writing’s being read by someone who understands the subject, then faking it is only going to embarrass you.

As a general rule you do not want to go over the 10th grade level. This is especially important as the complexity of the subject matter increases.

You should try to communicate you ideas in a concise and easy to read manner. In my opinion, the best idea in the world is useless if you can’t communicate it.

Note: the above has a grade level of 8.9 :smiley:

The F-K score does not mean you are writing on a 12th grade level, it means your writing is not comprehensible to anyone below that level. It means it’s too hard to read for your kid sister who’s almost as smart as you are. It also means that your teacher is going to work hard to read your paper, and will likely “reward” you with a lower grade. It means, basically, that you’re showing off. I write that way when I’m rushed; my technical writing gets that way too. Sometimes I’m forced to use language that’s expected by others in my industry, and that can sound a little pompous. When I have time, though, I cut down on my word length, use more active sentences, and reduce my use of semicolons.

You guys completely misunderstood something I said, and then insulted me for it. I never said I was especially


Here is a part of it that is fairly representative, but isn’t too long (it’s also not the full paragraph. Don’t yell.)

Do I sound especially pompous? Are my words too big? (I think the biggest one is “personification”, in my whole paper.

Yes. All writing of that sort sounds especially pompous. IMHO, of course.

Not that it means the F-K grade level thing means anything. It routinely gives my writing a 12.0 score, but my teachers often complement me on its clarity and conciseness. Here’s a representative sample of an essay it gave a 12.0:

Yes. Yes, you do. The following revisions change the reading level from 12 to 8. Your main problem is the needless words. I won’t try to get into the analysis itself, because I’ve never read Camus critically, just as “a read.”

The word draws attention to itself? It waves? Hollers? The word doesn’t do jack – YOU notice it. Why?

The word “happy” near the end of the passage is notable. Meursalt lives to be happy, with the least effort.

How is emphasis placed on this section? Is it in italics? Bold letters? Red letters? No. YOU are emphasizing it, and the teacher already knows that. Human beliefs? Is there some other kind? Note that use of parallel structures and repetition of words can eliminate a lot of verbiage.

This raises questions about what people believe happiness is like, and how an unhappy event can have unexpected positive results.

More needless words, and some poor vocabulary choices. Words like “growth,” “foreshadowing,” and “character development” already have definitions in literary criticism, so use them where they’re appropriate.

Meursalt says that when he shot the Arab, he "shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of the beach where [he’d] been happy.” This foreshadows his growth in the second part of the novel. It’s an early instance of his “stepping back” to talk about something besides the weather.

I don’t think anyone was intentionally trying to be insulting. I wouldn’t take it personally.

Looking at your paragraph though, it appears some of the sentences are a little long. Have you considered possibly separating them into smaller sentences?

chaoticdonkey, your except was not pompous at all – it sounds great to me. Keep up the good work! (I was an English major.)

However, my typing skills leave something to be desired! :wink:

Depends on your teacher. I’m a grad student in Lit, and all my writing is at 12, because for good or for ill, that’s the kind of writing that is expected. Clarity and straightforwardness are not necessarily prized.

I agree that in a moral and just world, versions like Nametag’s would be fine; but if your lit teacher is big into theory, pompous is her native tongue, and the goal is to impress as much as communicate. Yes, what you wrote is somewhat overblown (that last sentence is awkward); it will also very possibly get a better grade and almost certainly not worse. If your teacher does in fact mark you down for inflated language, cleave unto her, for she is a jewel among the professoriat.
And yes, I am filled with self-loathing after writing BS-laden abstracts.

(This post: 7.5)