Fry Readability Graph

The Fry Readability Graph is a readability assessment that calculates how difficult it is for non-native speakers of English to read raw text. This includes things such as words, grammar, and punctuation.

What is the Fry Reading Graph used for?

This readability metric is used for calculating USA grade levels that are needed in order to understand a section of text. The formula is actually a “graph,” pictured below. You will see that syllables and sentences are features of the graph. The text gets plotted on the graph and then links up with the score that corresponds with it.

Edward Fry created the Fry Readability Graph

Edward Fry created it in 1968. He did a lot of research on readability and reading. In fact, he was the president of the National Reading Conference [1], becoming an international authority on people and how they read.

While teaching in Uganda, he developed the Fry Formula. Educators and librarians found this extremely useful when they wanted to calculate the reading age of readers. It works with other top-notch formulas such as the Flesch Reading Ease, the Dale-Chall, and the Spache Readability Formula.

Fortunately, it is simple to understand, so we will try and explain how it works here.

The Graph scores text by how long paragraphs are, how many sentences are in a paragraph, and what percentage are vocabulary words. The longer and more complex the text is, the lower the grade level score. If the paragraph has fewer complicated sentences and easier words, the paragraph will get a higher score.

Fry Readability Formula determines the grade level of the text

The Fry Readability Graph has features such as the x-axis and y-axis. The syllables per 100 words are on the x-axis and the sentences per 100 words are shown on the y-axis. Read about the Fry Graph made easy here to understand it more.

How is the graph calculated?

Fry originally calculated his graph like this:

  • He said you should take a book and then select three 100-word passages. Take these passages from the beginning, the middle, and the end of the book. Don’t count any proper nouns.
  • Count how many sentences there are in each of the three passages. Calculate the average of the three numbers you get. You will get the average sentence length (ASL).
  • Next, count the number of syllables in each of the 100-word passages. This will give you the average number of syllables per word (ASW).
  • Then plot the results on the graph. The result from the two intersecting lines will represent the reading grade level of the text.

As an example: If you had text that had a 4.2 ASL and 140 ASW, the result from the graph would fall into the level of readability range of US grade level 9.

The Fry Readability Graph is a very handy tool

It helps people like teachers or speech-language pathologists determine at which grade reading level a text is. It reliably predicts grade levels with a certain degree of accuracy. The most reliable way, though, to measure text level is for the student to read the text and for the educator or clinician to note the level of difficulty.

What is the Fry Formula useful for?

 It was Fry himself who pointed out all the uses for his formula. It can be used in businesses, technical manuals, regulatory purposes, healthcare, law, and the military. It's proved particularly helpful in education due to its wide range of grading which makes it useful for elementary levels right up to college-level texts.

In healthcare

There are studies that show that patients who don’t understand the long sentences and high jargon of healthcare literature are less likely to follow the instructions and might then not even fully understand their illness. Clear readability of documents can help with healthcare literacy.

In law

The importance of readability has been shown in court cases, such as ones involving insurance policies. The claimant might not get the payout they are entitled to because of an insurance policy's wording. Insurance companies have been requested to take ‘prompt action’ to improve the readability of their documents, which can produce a different outcome in court cases.

Readability has also been discussed in cases where important texts are used such as in government documentation, private contracts, and warranties.

The Fry Formula can help you

Even though it is used mainly for educational purposes, the Fry Formula can tell you what grade level an audience for a text understands it at. The Fry Formula will help you ensure that your own writing is clear, readable, and concise.


Readability is important, there is no doubt about that [3]. Good readability will determine how long it takes to read a book and learn from it, which is why most reading material gives you a ‘Content’ page at the beginning so you can see what the book is going to be about. And fortunately, the Fry Readability Graph will be able to provide you with a guideline for reading a book before you decide to do so.

All Readability Tests:

Here is a list of all readability tests.

Jonathan Gillham

Founder / CEO of Originality.AI I have been involved in the SEO and Content Marketing world for over a decade. My career started with a portfolio of content sites, recently I sold 2 content marketing agencies and I am the Co-Founder of, the leading place to buy and sell content websites. Through these experiences I understand what web publishers need when it comes to verifying content is original. I am not For or Against AI content, I think it has a place in everyones content strategy. However, I believe you as the publisher should be the one making the decision on when to use AI content. Our Originality checking tool has been built with serious web publishers in mind!

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