Last week I began my exploration of the options in the Editor panel of Microsoft Word that can assist you in making your text more readable. If you missed reading it, you can find Part 1 of using Microsoft Word to improve your words here.
The next section in the Editor Panel is called Similarity because it checks the text in the current document against online documents to look for similar phrasing. To begin the check, you must click on the text, “Check for similarity to online sources.” Of course, if you are a teacher, you might use this functionality to check your student’s submitted papers to ensure that they did not simply copy the information from a website. Of course, they would never copy from the web, right? Or perhaps if they did copy text from another source, it can help them cited the source appropriately like “This entire term paper was copied from Term Papers Anonymous.” But if you are the average person, not prone to copying text from other online sources, you might use this option to make sure that your text does not sound like or appear to be taken from someone else’s work. After all, many people have the exact same thoughts as you on the topic. So, stop thinking you are the first to have those thoughts. But if you are lucky, they expressed their points of view differently, and therefore it will not flag the Similarity check.
Seriously though, if the check identifies other online text sources substantially similar to your document, it first displays the line Similarities reviewed along with two numbers separated by a slash. The first number indicates the percentage of the current document that appears to come from other sources. The second number indicates the number of instances of similar phrases from your document that it found online.
While the above image shows that the document has no similarities with any online text, let’s suppose that one or more similarities were found. To see the specific text that it flagged as similar, click the Similarities reviewed line to see each instance one at a time. You can determine if you agree that the text should have a citation to its source document, or you can choose to ignore the flag and hope no one notices.
This can be useful if you are writing a document and have previously saved a section of text to insert but now you do not remember where you found it. The Similarity tool can help you find the source and properly include a citation in your document.
The next section in the Editor panel is called Insights. Like the Similarities section, this section does not display any information until you click on the text Document stats. How is that for an insight?
As with Similarities, Insights can take a few moments to calculate and display the statistics. As expected, the amount of time this takes varies in direct relation to the length of the document. However, when the statistics have been compiled, Insights displays them in a separate window with the heading Readability Statistics.
The first section displays a set of four counts for the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in your document. While I might find this interesting, most people do not pay much attention to these statistics unless you are writing a paper for school which must be at least 5,000 words in length, or perhaps you are a writer who gets paid by the word. You can see these same statistics along with some additional ones if you select Word Count from the Proofing section of the Review ribbon in Microsoft Word.
The second section is more interesting. It includes the number of sentences per paragraph. Many people suggest that a paragraph with more than five or six sentences would be more readable if the paragraphs were shorter. Try this yourself with any text having paragraphs with a variety of sentence counts. I’ve seen books with a single paragraph taking up an entire page.
The second average calculates words per sentence. Again, longer sentences are harder to read. While sentence length variety is good, documents with nothing but long complex sentences that meander around on different topics without getting to the point can be confusing perhaps because the author tries to bring to bear too many different points together in one sentence and he forgets what the sentence was about. If you are reading the document aloud, these long, sometimes run-on sentences leave you out of breath before you get to their end. When I think about this readability statistic, it reminds me of most legal documents like most software user agreements.
Finally, this section concludes with the average number of characters per word. Larger values here tend to indicate a person trying to show off their huge vocabulary. However, using an abundance of larger words generally makes the document harder to read.
This brings us to the final section labeled Readability. The Flesch Reading Ease value and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level both evaluate the general level of education needed to read and understand the document. The Flesch Reading Ease Score has a 0 to 100 range. Larger numbers indicate content that is easier to read and understand. The site Character Calculator includes the following table to associate the Flesch Reading Ease score with both grade level and a general description of the ease of reading the document.
|90 – 100||5th Grade||Very easy to read|
|80 – 90||6th Grade||Easy to read|
|70 – 80||7th Grade||Fairly easy to read|
|60 – 70||8th and 9th Grade||Plain English|
|50 – 60||10th to 12th Grade||Fairly difficult to read|
|30 – 50||College||Difficult to read|
|10 – 30||College graduate||Very difficult to read|
|0 – 10||Professional||Extremely difficult to read|
It should be obvious that you want your website pages to be written in plain English. In other words to have a Flesch Reading score between 50 and 60. However, use this score only as a guideline for your writing especially if your audience is children or professional sites. Always consider the education level of your audience and write to it.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level provides another analysis of the reading level for your document that helps many people visualize how easy it is to read a document. Unlike the Flesch Reading Ease score, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level indicates documents that are easier to read when the number is smaller. However, it roughly corresponds to the second column in the prior table.
Well, that covers my brief introduction to making your web content more readable using Microsoft Word. But I am not finished talking about the use of Microsoft Word on your website. Next time, I hope to explore some of the hazards of using Microsoft Word to directly create and publish web pages and to show you how to avoid those hazards while still using Microsoft Word to create much of your content.