Readability

Average American Reading Level

Enhance your content's impact by writing for the average American reading level. Learn why it matters, how it's calculated, and tips for effective communication.

Jess Sawyer

As writers, we’re often looking for ways to make our content more effective and engaging to our audience. One of the most common pieces of advice is to write for your readers, whether they’re fishermen, makeup enthusiasts, or business professionals. But if you want to reach a wide audience, then you should also be writing for the average American reading level.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the average American reading level, and what it means for writers. We’ll go over what a reading level is, why it’s important, how it’s calculated, and give you some tips on tailoring your content to suit the reading level of this general audience.

What Is a Reading Level?

A reading level is an estimate of how much education a person would need to understand  written text. For example, for content written at a 9th grade reading level, the average reader would need at least a 9th grade education to understand it properly.

Why Is It Important to Consider Reading Level When Writing Content?

So, what does this have to do with writing content? Well, if you want your audience to get the most out of your content, then your writing needs to match their reading level. 

If you write at a higher reading level, then you risk them misunderstanding your content. Too low, and your audience may think you’re insulting their intelligence. It’s a fine balance, but typically the closer you get to their reading level, the better your content will be received by your readers.

What Is the Average American Reading Level?

Now, it’s often recommended that you should aim for a 7th-8th grade reading level when writing for a general audience. And generally speaking, this is good advice. But as it turns out, this is not the average American reading level. In fact, it’s even lower than you may think.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Education, about 54% of Americans from ages 16-74 read below a 6th grade reading level.

So, if you’re consistently writing above that level, you may be excluding some of your audience. But how do you know what level you’re writing at, anyway?

How Do You Calculate the Reading Level of Your Content?

The first step toward creating more average American-friendly content is to calculate the reading level of your writing. But don’t worry - you won’t need to do the math yourself! There are online tools available that make the process easy. And even better? Some of them are free.

Take Originality.AI’s readability checker, for example. With this free tool, you simply copy-and-paste your text, upload a file, or enter the URL of the content, and hit “Analyze”. It will then put the text through various readability tests, and calculate the scores for you.

Now, the Flesch-Kincaid and Gunning Fog Index are two of the most popular readability tests, so you may want to pay special attention to those. But you’ll also see how your content ranks on the SMOG Index, Powers Sumner-Kearl, the Coleman-Liau Index, and even more.

These scores can help you better tailor your content to your audience. For example, if you find that you’re writing at a much higher level than you’d like, then you can take steps to lower your scores. And this isn’t as difficult as you may think.

Tips on Improving the Readability of Your Content

Readability is a measure of how easy it is for someone to read and understand your content. Often, this involves lowering the reading level of a given text, especially if you’re aiming for that average American reader.

So, here are some tips on improving the readability of your content.

  • Stick to short, common words: Why use the word “echelon” when you could say “rank”? A general rule of thumb is to use words with as few syllables as possible.
  • Break up long sentences into shorter ones: Long, run-on sentences can be difficult to understand. So, try breaking them up into shorter ones. Focus on keeping one idea per sentence, and you should be good to go!
  • Don’t overuse adverbs: Unless they’re necessary, minimize the use of adverbs. Your audience shouldn't have to do any extra work to understand your writing, and these words can slightly change the meaning of a sentence.
  • Use readability checkers: In addition to calculating readability scores, these tools can help you identify areas for improvement. For example, they will highlight long sentences and adverbs so you don’t have to go looking for them.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to tailor your content to the average American reading level if you want to reach a wide audience. Fortunately, with our tips and a readability checker by your side, you can often do this quickly and easily.

Remember, your audience needs to understand your content if it’s going to be effective. And if they find that your content is more readable than your competitors’, it will likely keep them coming back for more.

Jess Sawyer

Jess Sawyer is a seasoned writer and content marketing expert with a passion for crafting engaging and SEO-optimized content. With several years of experience in the digital marketing, Jess has honed her skills in creating content that not only captivates audiences but also ranks high on search engine results.

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