Optimizing Readability: Using MS Word’s Readability Statistics and Flesch-Kincaid Scale for Quality Content


Are we optimizing readability to keep readers’ attention when they start to read our content?

Content is crucial for SEO success, both on and off-page. There is a secret weapon to create quality content that you may not even realize you already have.

MS Word’s Readability Statistics And Flesch-Kincaid Scale

Don’t worry, it’s a pain-free process that measures everything from sentence length to ideal reading age. These stats can optimize readability. Here’s where to find it.

To perform a Spelling & Grammar check in MS Word, go to the ‘Review’ tab and click on the ‘Options…’ button. It is easily accessible in any version of MS Word, including MS Word 2010.

Go to ‘Word Options’ and check the box for ‘Show readability statistics’. Then, redo the Spelling & Grammar check and correct your mistakes. At the end of the check, a new box will show your readability statistics, which will be visible in future checks.

Understanding How To Optimize Readability Statistics

Ok, so everything’s all well and good now that you’ve enabled your readability statistics. But what do these numbers mean? And how can you use them to improve your writing skills? Let’s find out what they mean so you can use them to optimize readability.


We’re going to group all of the subcategories under ‘Counts’ together because, for this first section, there’s not much that you need to know.

  • Words, Characters, Paragraphs & Sentences: These are just your standard totals, saving you from sitting down and manually adding up your word count. Not much to see here, but useful to know nonetheless.


Now it gets interesting. Statistics reveal a lot about your content. Learn from Orwell and Hemingway: less is more for impactful writing and improved readability.

  • Sentences per Paragraph: Yep, this is showing you the average amount of sentences that you use in one of your paragraphs. It might seem obvious, but writing that’s broken up into lots of lovely paragraphs is easier to understand than one giant block of text. Not only that, but it’s much easier on the eye and is much more likely to be read.
    TOP TIP: Keep this in mind and try to stick to just two or three sentences per paragraph for easily digestible content.
  • Words per sentence: this is calculating how many words there are in sentences. As with paragraphs, short sentences are what you need. A good rule of thumb is to try and stick to no more than 25 words per sentence. However, some writers are even more strict and don’t go above 20. Using more might leave your readers with no space to think.
    TOP TIP: It’s always worth going back and refining that one rambling thought into coherent chunks of information.
  • Characters per Word: This one looks at the average length of the words that you’re using in your writing. It’s a little harder to immediately say ‘shorter words are better’. It depends on the intended audience of your content. Of course, if it’s a technical piece, there’s probably a good reason for your score to be slightly higher here if you’ve made use of lots of impressive terminologies.
    TOP TIP: The main thing to remember here is to be aware of your intended audience and adjust your vocabulary accordingly.


  • Passive Sentences: This is calculating the percentage of passive sentences in your writing. In case you’ve forgotten everything from your old English classes, here’s a quick lesson on the difference between an active sentence and a passive sentence.
    A sentence written in the active voice means that the subject of the sentence is acting in the sentence. A sentence written in passive voice means that the subject of the sentence is receiving action from someone or something else. Active sentences push your point across much more succinctly – and they keep your word count manageable in the process. Your goal is to get the lowest possible percentage of passive sentences.
    TOP TIP: Try to aim for a score of 15% or below for writing that’s clear and concise.
  • Flesch Reading Ease: Finally, we reach the elusive and mysterious Flesch-Kincaid system. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. In a nutshell, the Flesch Reading Ease uses all of the above statistics to calculate how easy your content is to read on a scale of 0-100. The lower the result, the more complex your piece is to read. With score of 100 means that your piece is 100% readable and you should win a medal.
    TOP TIP: Again, this depends on your target audience and how easy you want your writing to be. However, speaking widely, anything around 60-70 is a desirable level for the average reader.
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: Your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level takes everything we’ve covered so far and magically calculates it all into a hypothetical American school grade level. In other words, it tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your writing. If you’re not familiar with the American grade system, simply add five to the grade number and you’ll get the average age instead.
    TOP TIP: The best age for your content entirely depends on who it is that you hope will read it. Does it need to be understood by a five-year-old or does it need to appear sophisticated and knowledgeable? The choice is yours.

Why Is This Important For SEO?

Internet users want quick answers to their queries. If your content is difficult to read, users will leave your page for an easier option.

If your content is too simple, users won’t find it valuable and will quickly move on, causing a high bounce rate and disengagement.

Running MS Word’s Flesch-Kincaid scale and readability statistics shows exactly what your writing looks like to someone else. It gives you the chance to add the final polish, the one that might make a hit for the desired audience.

Put all of these tips to optimize readability and you’ll be sure to have a great piece of readable content. The content that will reign supreme.

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