Make your Word document more readable

Word’s Readability check is a great extension to the familiar Microsoft Word Spelling & Grammar. Word can check the complexity of your writing and give you an idea of whether your text will be readable, meaning understood, by your target audience.

We’ll show you how to see Word’s Readability Statistics, what they mean and how to display them without first fixing every little spelling mistake.

You need to write differently, for example, for a fifth grader or someone with low literacy than you would for someone pursuing a postgraduate degree. The readability checker helps ensure you are hitting the mark for your intended audience.

Turn on Readability Statistics

To enable the readability checker, go to File | Options | Proofing and move down to “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word”. Then tick “Show readability statistics”.

To see your readability statistics, you will need to run the spell checker; Review | Proofing | Check Documents .

Word only shows the readability stats after running a spell check. After you have changed or ignored all the items brought up by the spell checker, an alert will a appear, saying “Spelling and grammar check is complete”. Click OK, and Readability Statistics will appear.


As well as whole lot of interesting totals there are some averages which give a very rough idea of document complexity.

  • Sentences per Paragraph
  • Words per Sentence
  • Characters per Word

Fleisch Reading Ease and Fleisch-Kincaid Grade Levels

Two better ways to rate document complexity are Fleisch Reading Ease and Fleisch-Kincaid Grade Levels  But what do they mean?

Fleisch and Kincaid developed a couple of mathematical formulas to work this out, but simply explained:

Reading Ease

Reading Ease, the lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read, ranging from 90-100 for a fifth grader, down to 0-30 for a college graduate.  A higher ease number is better.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the Reading Ease score:

100-90  5th grade

90-80    6th grade

80-70    7th grade

70-60    8th & 9th grade

60-50    10th to 12th grade

50-30    College

30-0      College graduate

Grade Level

Grade Level is even easier to understand, as it is simply expressed as a grade level in the US school system .A lower level is better.  So the text that the above statistics came from would be understandable to an average tenth grader.

Can I check readability without running the spell checker?

Not directly.  Word will only display readability statistics after running through the spell checker.  You have to fix all spelling flags or mark them ‘Ignore’.

If you really want to be able to do this though, there is a workaround using a macro.  Jay Alexander wrote a simple little function to display the readability stats without all the spell checks.

Sub ShowReadabilityStats()

    Dim rs As ReadabilityStatistic

    Dim msg As String

    With ActiveDocument

        For Each rs In .ReadabilityStatistics

            msg = msg & rs.Name & vbTab & rs.Value & vbCr

        Next rs

        msg = Left(msg, Len(msg) - 1)

    End With

    MsgBox msg, , "Readability Statistics"

End Sub

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