Tag Archive: tools

Mar 25

Ways to Lower the Reading Level

Photo by vimages (CC BY 2.0)

by Rita Vanden Heuvel for dameditors. Reposted here with permission and covered under this site’s CC license

Writers of safety communications know that it’s crucial to produce highly readable content to help prevent injuries and save people’s lives. They know that the average reader has a reading level between sixth and eighth grade and that readers are more likely to read content that matches their reading level. Beyond making content readable, writers also consider the length of content. Readers are more likely to read shorter content than longer content, and content that has a clear purpose.

If you want to make your words matter to people, you need to take readability seriously.

What is Readability?

Most simply, readability is a measure of how easy it is to read your writing. It has to do with semantics and syntax, or the length of words and sentences. Often, the readability score indicates the number of years of education required to understand the writing.

readability 2

Test Readability

You can use readability formulas to assess reading level. There are software and websites that can do this for you. Readability formulas assess semantics and syntax. Many formulas measure

  • words according to their average length in characters or syllables
  • sentences according to average length in characters or words
  • unfamiliar or high frequency words

The chart summarizes readability formulas appropriate for a variety of audiences. Use one or several of the formulas to test your content. As you become more experienced, you will likely rely less and less on such formulas and become adept at targeting writing

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to the appropriate reading level for the audience.


What It Measures

How Each Can Best Be Used

Grade equivalent score: represents a student’s ability level in comparison to students who were in the specific test’s norming group
Flesch Reading Ease Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level • syllables per word and words per sentence • appropriate for grades 3 to 12
Fry Readability Graph • appropriate for elementary through college
Gunning Fog Score • words per sentence and complex words (three or more syllables) • often used for health care material and general business publications
SMOG Index • complex words (three or more syllables) • often used for health care material
Coleman Liau Index • characters per word and words per sentence • appropriate for grade 4 to college
Spache • words per sentence and unfamiliar words (words not in Familiar Word List) • appropriate for grades 1 to 3• highlights difficult words that need to be shortened/simplified
Dale-Chall • words per sentence and unfamiliar words (words not in Familiar Word List) • appropriate for grade 4 to 12 highlights difficult words that need to be shortened/simplified
Lexile measure: represents a student’s level on a developmental scale of reading ability. Matches student with text at whatever level the student is reading.
Lexile • words per sentence and words against a frequency list– sentence length carries more weight than word frequency • appropriate when working on texts with defined literacy levels

For educational publishing, I recommend using Spache for students in grades 1 to 3 and Dale Chall for students in grade 4 and beyond. These formulas are based on the use of familiar words rather than syllable or word counts. Research shows that readers find it easier to read, process, and recall content if they find the words familiar. The formulas highlight the difficult words and include a list of more common words. In addition, these formulas have been tested scientifically and are open source.

Limitations of Readability Formulas

Readability formulas have limitations. They can’t assess

  • how complex the ideas are
  • whether the content is logically ordered
  • whether the vocabulary is appropriate for the audience
  • whether there is a gender or cultural bias
  • whether the design, form, and font style help make content easier to read

You need to address these types of limitations as part of good writing.

Ways to Lower Reading Level: Write Clearly, Simply, and With Purpose

words sentences and paragraphsWrite clearly and use plain language. Shorten the number of words in your sentences. Shorten the number of sentences in paragraphs and when you can, shorten the number of paragraphs.

At the word level

  • Use words with fewer syllables.
  • Define new terms using plain language.
  • Do not use contractions (e.g., don’t).
  • Omit needless words.

At the sentence level

Oily but a something generic pharmacy and brush transitioning pair makes.

At the paragraph level

Making content highly readable is important for all kinds of communications, not just those that involve health and safety. Your goal should be to maximize the impact of your words, whether they appear in print or digital media.

View a sample that shows how to lower the reading level at http://dameditors.ca/?p=517.

Read More


Online Readability Test Tools







Making Writing More Readable




Word Lists

The Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogilner amzn.to/WOt8rr

Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It by Rudolf Flesch amzn.to/Tt4zS0

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2016/03/ways-to-lower-the-reading-level/

Dec 03

8 Ways a Ruler Rocks Editing

Tweet this quote.close up on numbers 789 on a clear rulerHow do you use a ruler when editing? I list 8 uses for rulers at (not of) the editing desk, today in my Canadian, Eh? column at Copyediting.com.

Link to my Canadian, Eh? column on Copyediting.com


Photo by Theilr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license. 

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/12/8-ways-a-ruler-rocks-editing/

Jun 17

Stamps: Acrobat Tips for Proofreader’s Markup of PDFs

In my first post of the “marking up PDFs” series, I showed the many uses of stamps in Acrobat.stamp icon Adobe Acrobat Reader XI

Setting favourite stamps makes them available in above the other categories when you click the stamp icon.

Watch this screencast to learn how to make a custom (proofreader’s) stamp and how to import stamps into the free Adobe (Acrobat) Reader XI. (Tweet this.)


PDF editing mark-up in Adobe Acrobat series:

Basic PDF Mark-up for Copy Editors and Proofreaders

Key Mark-up Techniques for Proofreading PDFs

Edit Tools for Marking up PDFs

Create a Checklist of Your PDF Mark-up in 2 Clicks

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/stamps-acrobat-tips-for-proofreaders-markup-of-pdfs/

Jun 12

Mark up Title Corrections for Video Using PDF

Anything you can take a screen shot of can be marked up as a PDF. Here is a quick demo showing how to mark up corrections to titles (or captions) in a video. It uses the free Adobe Reader XI software.

Steps are written out below.


Steps to create a PDF from a screen shot

  1. Launch the video / program or whatever.
  2. Pause the playback at the right moment.
  3. Take a screen shot (see tips below).
  4. Create PDF by opening the screen shot in your preferred viewer or pasting it into a Word document, then selecting “Save as PDF” or “print to PDF.”
  5. Open the PDF in Adobe Reader XI. (Make sure it opens in the program, and not within a web browser window.)


Ways to take a screen shot

  • [Mac] ⌘ + shift + 4 — drag crosshairs around selection to copy
  • [Mac] ⌘ + shift + 4, release, then spacebar — click on window to copy whole thing
  • [iPad, iPhone] home button + power button — saves screen image to photo album
  • [PC] No idea. Google it.


Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/mark-up-title-corrections-for-video-using-pdf/

Jun 09

Multiple Monitors for Editing Efficiency

photo of 30ft screen at Li Ka Shing Institute auditorium


Why are multiple monitor screens more efficient? It might only take a few seconds to sort through the dozen windows open on your computer to find the one you want, but when you do that 5000 times a day…

Configurations, document distribution, and more today, on the How To column at Copyediting.com. No IT wizardry required.

What’s your setup?

I hope you’ll tell us, in the comments. And let us know how you tackled any hurdles, too.
Link to my columns on Copyediting.com


Photo by me CC BY-2.0.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/multiple-monitors-for-editing-efficiency/

Jun 08

Intro to Advanced Acrobatics

This handout is from my presentation at the EAC 2014 conference. Get a printable PDF version here.

Mark up any file you can print to/save as PDF and absolutely anything you can take a screen shot of: website flash menus, apps, PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, and good old text manuscripts. You can do all of this with the free Adobe Reader XI that works on both Mac and Windows platforms.

Summary of Tools in Comment Panel

comment menu in Adobe Acrobat Reader XIDrawing Markups work like an electronic pencil.

Annotations mark up text much like Word’s Track Changes feature. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/intro-to-advanced-acrobatics/

Jun 05

The argument for making changes silently, not tracking them

I espouse making routine copy editing changes silently; that is, without tracking them in Word. From editors, I hear a few common concerns about this:


  • What if the client wants to see every little change?
  • What if the edits introduced errors?
  • What if we really want the client to know that we did all that work? Will invisible changes go and unacknowledged, and, in the end, unappreciated?


sample of how tracked changes in MS Word quickly gets clutteredAbove all, do what works for you and for your client. There is room for many valid work styles among editors.

The idea of making changes silently came to me from Carol Fisher-Saller, one of the more prominent editors at University of Chicago press. I’m in good company on this point, and her post explains it well. But then again, she does call herself The Subversive Editor. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/the-argument-for-making-changes-silently-not-tracking-them/

Jun 03

Software for Copy Editors and Proofreaders

kitten with laptop


A roundup of software for editorial pros appears today in my post for The Editors’ Weekly, the blog of the Editors’ Association of Canada. This post grew out of the writing I am doing for EAC, revising the next edition of Editing Canadian English. There will be a whole new section on software for editing at all stages of the process!

And here’s an interesting way to use Evernote — though it does seem more writerly than editorly. @IvaCheung explains. HT @ElizabethMacfie

See all my articles on The Editors’ Weekly.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/06/software-for-copy-editors-and-proofreaders/

May 09

Social Media Reviews for Freelance Editors

When I moved, I threw out 350 of the 500 business cards that I printed when I first set out as a freelancer, 14 years earlier. Social media is how I connect with people now; both to meet them and to find them again later. Next week, read my tips for using these effectively.

Here is where you should be hanging out online

social media icons on pastels


More in this series: strategies, definedreadings



Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/05/social-media-reviews-for-freelance-editors/

Apr 10

5 tips for editing your own work

photo of magnified eyeFive brain hacks for tricking yourself into seeing text with fresh eyes are covered in this episode, an adaptation of my post on copyediting.com. While originally written for editors, these tips can help writers editing their own writing too; they are ways to trick your eyes into seeing what is actually there rather than what your mind thinks should be there.

Press play below or subscribe to have this sent automatically to your podcatcher/ iTunes, or right-click to download the file. 6:35 min

Follow this link to instructions for subscribing to this podcast.


What do you do to see the words anew? Leave your comments below, or join the discussion over on the Dameditors Facebook page.


Mentioned in this episode:

Original post: 5 Ways to Refocus Your Editing Eye

First and second episodes: Error Rates in Editing: What’s Your Save Percentage? and How many errors trigger a book reprint? (Spoilers: data shows 95% is the best humanly possible and, secondly, precious few.)

Read more about using colour to spot typos.





Link to my Canadian, Eh? column on Copyediting.com


The image for this episode is by chrisbb, used under CC BY 2.0 license.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.catchthesun.net/2014/04/5-tips-for-editing-your-own-work/

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