How to Check Readability in Word

Want to improve the readability of your content? Wondering what your Flesch-Kincaid score means in Word? Want to check readability in Word on macOS? We’ve got all those answers and more in this detailed how-to, starting from the most recent version of Word for Windows and macOS: Word for Microsoft 365.

Want to improve the readability of your content? Wondering what your Flesch-Kincaid score means in Word? Want to check readability in Word on macOS? We’ve got all those answers and more in this detailed how-to, starting from the most recent version of Word for Windows and macOS: Word for Microsoft 365.

Check Readability in Word for Microsoft 365

The following steps work for Word for Microsoft 365, Word for Microsoft 365 for Mac and Word 2021 versions. 

  1. Open your Word document
  2. Select the Home tab
  3. Choose Editor > Document Stats
  4. You may see a dialog box from Word the lets you know that this process will take a few minutes if you have a large file.
  5. When finished, Word will open a window that will show you your readability details. 
Microsoft Support Pop Up
Image Source: Microsoft Support

Check Readability in Older Versions of Microsoft Word

If you have Word 2013 or later (up to 2021), you’ll need to turn on the Readability feature in order to use it. Here’s how to do it in Windows: 

  1. In Word, Click on File and choose Options
  2. Select the Proofing tab from the Options window
  3. Click the boxes that say “Check grammar with spelling” and “show readability statistics” located in the proofing tab
  4. Click OK
Check Readability in Older Versions of Microsoft Word
Image Source: ONGIG

And here’s how to do it in macOS: 

  1. Open Word
  2. Click the Word tab next to the Apple logo in the upper left
  3. Click Preferences
  4. Click Spelling and Grammar
  5. Under Grammar, click the “show readability statistics” box
  6. Click X to close the tab
Check Readability in MacOS
Image Source: ONGIG

Check Readability in Word via Spelling and Grammar Check

Anytime you want to check readability in Word, you can do so through the grammar check.

In Windows: Press F7 to start the spelling and grammar checker and click Show Readability Statistics.

In macOS. Click on Tools > Spelling and Grammar > Editor. Then click on Documents stats in the insight section at the bottom right. 

Microsoft Word Readability Statistics: What They Mean

You’ve got your readability statistics, now what? The secret to making the most out of your readability check in Word is understanding what those numbers mean. Most of them are self-explanatory things like your word count and character count, the average number of sentences per paragraph and words per sentence.

But if you want to measure readability beyond just scratching the surface, you’ll want to check the other two scores that appear in the box: 

  • Flesch Reading Ease score and
  • Flesch Kincaid Grade Level

Understanding Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level Readability Scores

Flesch Kincaid is a popular and common readability formula that scores readability based on the average length of your sentences and the average number of syllables per word. When your readability check in Word is finished, you’ll receive a number from 0-100. 

In short, the higher the score, the easier your content is to read. Here’s a quick guide that gives you an idea of the readability of your content based on your score in Microsoft Word:

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level Readability Scores

Assigning a school level grade to readability is generally understood even in countries that don’t use this system. Most Americans tend to read at an 8th or 9th grade level.

Here’s an example of what the end result looks like:

Readability Statistics
Image source: HowtoGeek

Important Note About Checking for Readability in Languages other than English

If you commonly write in a language other than English, you may not see all of the above information when checking readability in Word. In some cases, readability scores are unavailable so keep that in mind as you write. 

Are There Times When You Shouldn’t Check Readability in Word?

There are a few instances when checking readability in Word could do more harm than good, including: 

  • Highly technical or specialized content -

Readability checkers are ideal for general writing, but when it comes to highly specialized or complex writing (think scientific papers or legal documents) the readability scores might not accurately reflect the comprehension level needed to understand them. It’s best to rely on the expertise and experience of your target audience in this case, and their familiarity with the subject matter, rather than relying on readability scores. 

  • Creative writing and literature

Readability checkers, like those in Microsoft Word, often check things like word complexity, grammar rules and sentence length, but in cases where you’re writing creative fiction or poetry, these fules

  • Specific cultural or regional words

Although readability checkers follow standard grammar and language conventions, it’s important to remember that language varies across regions and contexts. Depending on your target audience or your goals for your content, you may need to adopt a more specific style that keeps these cultural conventions in mind. 

  • Niche audiences 

Just as with cultural and regional audiences, readability scores also aren’t ironclad when it comes to niche audiences. If you’re writing something highly specific, you’ll need to depend more on their familiarity with the subject, their background knowledge and general context while adjusting your writing style accordingly. 

  • Translated or multilingual content

If you’re working in the context of translated content or content in multiple languages, keep in mind that AI can’t  yet account for nuances across languages, which leads to different v variations in sentences, a lack of understanding of idiomatic expressions and much more which may in turn inaccurately reflect a readability score. 

Should You Rely Solely on Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scores?

While Flesch-Kincaid is a popular readability formula and at the time of this writing, the only readability measurement tool in Microsoft Word, it is by no means the only one out there. 

The Originality.AI text readability tool goes beyond what’s possible in Microsoft Word. This comprehensive, free readability checker leverages all of the following readability checkers to give you the full picture of your content’s readability across many different models, including Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level as well as: 

  • Gunning Fog Index - A readability metrics that accounts for sentence length and number of complex words (words with 3+ syllables). The higher the score, the more difficult readability.
  • SMOG Index - The Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook (yes that’s really what it stands for) estimates how many years of education are needed to understand a text by analyzing the number of words of more than one syllable in a sample. It’s often used to measure readability in healthcare and legal documents.

  • Powers Sumner-Kearl - A readability formula that measures readability by looking at syllable patterns and word frequency data.

  • FORCAST Grade Level - A measure of readability based on the frequency of single syllable words.

  • Coleman Liau Index - This formula considers the number of characters per word and sentences per 100 words to estimate the U.S. grade level needed to understand a text. It is unique in that it doesn’t rely on syllable counts which makes it a very efficient formula. 
  • Automated Readability Index - This formula uses characters per word and words per sentence to determine readability. It then converts the results into an approximate U.S. grade level.

  • Dale-Chall Readability Grade - This formula uses sentence length and percentage of difficult words based on a predefined list of 3,000 familiar words.

  • Spache Readability Grade - This readability formula centers on texts aimed at younger readers and looks at both sentence length and unfamiliar words to determine an approximate age where a text would be readable by students in grades 1-3 (approximately 6-10 years old)

  • Linsear Write Grade - This formula evaluates the readability of text by taking a sample of 100 words and analyzing the number of simple and complex words. 

Try Originality.AI’s Free Readability Checker

Analyze the readability and keyword density of your content with the readability checker. Then, get the full picture of your content’s readability by analyzing it across multiple readability formulas with an Originality AI content scan. Plus, get access to AI-generated content detection and check for plagiarism.

Taking the time to optimize your content can give it the boost it needs to rank well in Google.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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