Testing readability and usability

Testing readability

When you give your document to a test audience, you can use what is called a Cloze Test Procedure to check readability:

  1. Replace every fifth word with a blank. (You can use the online Cloze Test Creator [new tab] on the Analyze My Writing website to do this automatically.)
  2. Find some people who fit the demographic of your intended audience. Ask them to write the word they think makes the most sense in each blank. They should take as much time as they need.
  3. Check each blank and give one point per correct answer. (Even if a word is misspelled, it is still counted as correct.)
  4. Divide the number of correct answers by the number of blanks to get a percent score.

The higher the percent score, the more readable the document. If your target reading audience gets an average of 60% or more correct, your document is fairly easy to read. If the score is 40% or under, your document is difficult to read.

Although it is ideal to test with real people, you can also check readability with Word’s built-in editor.

To access readability scores in Word 2019, follow these steps:

  1. Go to File > Options.
  2. Select Proofing.
  3. Under “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word,” make sure to “Check grammar with spelling” check box is selected.
  4. Select Show readability statistics.

Once this feature is enabled, check the spelling on your open document by pressing F7 or going to Review > Editor. (Before you can access the readability scores, you will have to go through all the Edit feature’s suggestions and either make the changes or click “ignore” on each.)

Word will tell you the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of your document. The Flesch Reading Ease score requires a conversion table for you to know the grade level.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level corresponds to the K-12 grade level in the Canadian and US education systems. For maximum readability, you will want to aim for no more than Grade 8.

(This handbook scored a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 7.8.)

Testing usability

You can also test usability with people in your target audience. Try giving the document to somone in your target audience and asking them a few questions. For example:

  • What do you think is the purpose of this document?
  • Was this document easy and pleasant to read?
  • Was there anything that was not clear or was confusing?
  • Can you recommend changes that would make this document easier to understand or more useful?

Remember to keep reviewing and testing documents frequently to make sure they continue to meet your readers’ needs.

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