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Leveling Writing with Flesch Kincaid Grade Level

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/6/2012

When writing passages to be used in the classroom, it is essential to ensure that they are written to grade level. Even without complex or expensive readability software, leveled writing can be a breeze with MS Word's built-in Flesch Kincaid grade level software. Here's how to use it.

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    Flesch Kincaid Grade Level is a way of measuring the readability of a certain text. In other words, it uses a mathematical formula to calculate the difficulty of the writing and to estimate the grade level that the reader must be at in order to readily comprehend the text. The formula for calculating Flesch Kincaid Grade Level involves the average sentence length (ASL) and the average number of syllables per word (ASW). Mathematically, the formula is (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59. The result is a grade level from 0.0 to 30.0, representing the grade level of the reader who would be comfortable with the reading level of the text.

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    How to Use It

    To use Flesh Kincaid software in Micrsoft Word 2007, first follow these directions to change your settings:

    • Click on the Office Button at the top-left of the screen.
    • Select “Word Options.”
    • Click on the Proofing Tab, and scroll down to “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word.”
    • Select the box next to “show readability statistics.”
    • Click OK to save.

    Then, when you have written a sample passage, click on the Spelling & Grammar button on the Review toolbar. After the computer checks the spelling and grammar of your writing, it will display a screen with various statistics about the text. The last statistic will be the text’s Flesch Kincaid Grade Level.

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    Tips for Writing to the Appropriate Grade Level

    If you are supposed to be writing to a certain grade level, it can be frustrating when a text measures several grade levels above or below your target. Sometimes a few tweaks here and there can raise or lower your text effectively. Here are some tips to help you raise the grade level of your text:

    • Try to combine sentences whenever possible, using commas and conjunctions or other methods. Remember that Flesch Kincaid Grade Level is partially based on sentence length, so this is one of the easiest ways to raise the grade level.
    • Do not waste your time combining sentences by inserting semicolons. Flesch Kincaid treats semicolons as breaks between sentences, just like periods.
    • Try to insert as many longer words as possible, especially words with three or more syllables. Keep in mind, however, that Flesch Kincaid does not take the suffix –ed into account when calculating syllables, so the word “corrected,” for example, would only count as a two-syllable word.
    • Remove long strings of one syllable words whenever possible. For example, if you have a sentence that reads “The squirrel scurried up the tree, searching here and there for more nuts to fill his cheeks with” in your text, try shortening the text to read “The squirrel scurried up the tree, searching for more nuts.” This will remove some of the one-syllable words, which will lower your Flesch Kincaid score.

    To lower the grade level of your text, do the opposite of each bullet above. Break sentences into two whenever possible, replace longer words with shorter ones, and insert additional one syllable word strings.

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