Looking for the Readability Statistics in Microsoft Word? You’re not alone. Many writers have been puzzled by the changes that seem to have hidden this invaluable tool in Microsoft 365. In this article, I’ll guide you straight to it, because knowing if your writing meets your intended audience and reading level should be easy to find.
How to Check Readability Statistics in Word
Microsoft Word has provided readability statistics for as long as I can remember. It seemed to come up effortlessly for me and was one I relied on to check reading levels. The feature seems to be overshadowed by the new Editor pane in Microsoft 365.
- Open your Microsoft Word document.
- From the Home tab, click the Editor button on the toolbar.
- In the Editor pane on the right side, scroll down to Insights and click Document stats.
- A Microsoft Word dialog opens telling you it’s calculating the stats. Click OK.
- Based on your document length, you’ll shortly see the familiar Readability Statistics dialog box.
Now, when you check your entire document for spelling and grammar, you should see your statistics. However, sometimes spell check problems can interfere. In previous Word versions, you could elect to proof specific sections.
What are Readability Statistics and Scores
The dialog contains three sections covering Counts, Averages, and Readability scores. Some people also think of this as a readability index or a measure of how easy it is to read the content. While there may be a correlation between the Editor Score to readability, the Readability Statistics are calculated differently.
Most people focus on the lower Readability section unless you sell stories by the word or are a content farm. These metrics provide quick feedback about your writing in relation to your intended audience. For example, in the screen snap above, the document’s reading level is written for someone in the 14th year of their education using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula. Don’t worry, it wasn’t this article.
In addition, many companies and organizations want authors to write to a specific grade level. Another common example is a school textbook, which is written for a specific grade. For example, the science book you had in the 3rd grade had different words and structure than the one you had in 10th grade.
If you look at the Wikipedia entry for readability tests, you’ll see entries for more than a dozen tests. However, most word processors focus on the Flesh Reading Ease and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level scores.
Many of these formulas are based on weighted combinations. A weighted combination implies the factors aren’t equally valued. For example, the Total Words item might have a different weight than Total Sentences. These factors include:
- Total words
- Total syllables
- Total sentences
Why Don’t My Readability Statistics in Word Show
In some scenarios, your readability stats may not show.
- You didn’t enable the Show readability statistics checkbox in the Word Options Proofing panel. Surprisingly, in my recent testing, I can get the stats to show even when I uncheck the option.
- Sometimes you need to correct or ignore all the Editor pane errors and refinements. You need to have a checkmark in the quantity count for each category. Acting on the recommended suggestions will increase the Editor Score at the top and will most likely increase your readability too.
Mark Errors As You Type
Some writers prefer to have Microsoft Word mark spelling and grammar errors as they type. This has the advantage of reducing the error count by the time you do your final check. Likewise, your category counts in the Editor pane should be lower.
However, many writers like to do drafts without seeing the squiggly red lines. If they want their reading statistics, they’ll either need to correct the errors or ignore them. This can be time-consuming which is why some authors prefer to use other services.
Alternative Readability Tools
There are also online tools to analyze the readability of web pages. For these situations, I found Juicy Studio to be good. This is a well-documented site that allows you to enter a URL and see the results. In addition, the site provides scores from known publications for comparison. For example, you can see the readability results for one of my tutorials below.
One thing to be careful of is any non-related text that might appear on a webpage that might skew the results. For example, many of my tutorials have a related articles section.
Another option is to copy and paste your document into an online tool like Automatic Readability Checker. This tool takes a little more effort but provides a different set of statistics. It also provides annotations that provide more details. This is also a good choice if you need to copy and paste your readability statistics for others.
Readability statistics can be useful in evaluating your writing, but they shouldn’t be the sole criteria for evaluating a reading level in Word. Sadly, I can have a very good score but fail to put in some required steps in my instruction. There are many more factors, including humor, which may not always translate well.
And my web designer friends tell me that site design and usability play a role. Even font types play a role. But if you need to write to a specific grade level, Word’s Readability Statistics are handy and informative.