Determining Readability

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Ever wondered whether your audience could understand your information? Here are a few methods you can use to estimate the reading level required to understand text and to test whether your readers understand your content.

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Determining Readability

  1. 1. Determining Readability How to Find Out Whether Users Understand Your Content Angela Colter (@angelacolter) UPA 2010 Munich
  2. 2. The Reading Process
  3. 3. Decoding Recovering the spoken word that the printed word represents
  4. 4. phoneme morpheme The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog literal comprehension
  5. 5. Find out what users understand, not what they say they understand.
  6. 6. Test Text with Users
  7. 7. Cued response Read the text, then paraphrase aloud
  8. 8. Pre-test / Post-test Test domain knowledge, Read the text, Test again
  9. 9. Cloze procedure Delete every 5th word, fill in the blanks
  10. 10. Activity Cloze Procedure
  11. 11. Cloze Example Short-term memory works a _________ like the bucket you _________ to catch water dripping _________ a leak in the _________. When the bucket is _________ —but you can see _________ more water is coming—_________ do you do? You _________ it all out and _________ the empty bucket back _________ the leak. If short-term _________ has been filled to _________ but more is coming, _________ don’t selectively discard what’s _________ there. We dump everything _________ so we can catch _________ rest. That means it’s _________ a good idea to _________ lots of information hoping _________ readers will remember some _________ it. It’s likely they _________ remember any of it. _________ characteristic of short-term memory _________ to everyone, but there _________ differences in the size _________ the bucket. Adults with _________ literacy skills can store _________ seven chunks of information _________ a time in short-term _________. The number for poor _________ may be closer to _________ or fewer.
  12. 12. Cloze Example Short-term memory works a LOT like the bucket you USE to catch water dripping FROM a leak in the CEILING. When the bucket is FULL —but you can see THAT more water is coming— WHAT do you do? You THROW it all out and PUT the empty bucket back UNDER the leak. If short-term MEMORY has been filled to CAPACITY but more is coming, WE don’t selectively discard what’s CURRENTLY there. We dump everything OUT so we can catch THE rest. That means it’s NOT a good idea to LIST lots of information hoping YOUR readers will remember some OF it. It’s likely they WON’T remember any of it. THIS characteristic of short-term memory APPLIES to everyone, but there ARE differences in the size OF the bucket. Adults with ADEQUATE literacy skills can store AROUND seven chunks of information AT a time in short-term MEMORY. The number for poor READERS may be closer to FIVE or fewer.
  13. 13. Score = (exact matches / blanks) • 60% or more: “independent level” Reader understood 90% of the material • 40-60%: “instructional level” Reader understood 75% of the material • Under 40%: “frustration level” Material is too difficult for this audience
  14. 14. Estimate the Grade Level of Text
  15. 15. Readability Formulas
  16. 16. Flesch Grade Level Formula .39 x ( # of words # of sentences ) + 11.8 x ( # of syllables # of words ) - 15.59 syntactic semantic factor factor
  17. 17. Activity Fry Readability Graph
  18. 18. Fry Readability Graph Exercise “ I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to ” the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
  19. 19. Use a 100-word sample “ I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to ” the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
  20. 20. Count the number of syllables and sentences “ I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to ” the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
  21. 21. Only mark after the first syllable “ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to ” the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
  22. 22. Fry Readability Graph Number of sentences Number of syllables
  23. 23. Remember to • Understand the limitations of formulas • Use an appropriate formula • Use an automated tool • Prepare the text • Avoid writing to the formula
  24. 24. This sentence is written at a second grade level: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  25. 25. So is this one: Brown over the dog quick the lazy jumps fox.
  26. 26. This one too: Dxr owcn kothv ert oghe qazui pelju mps foy.
  27. 27. Remember to • Understand the limitations of formulas • Use an appropriate formula • Use an automated tool • Prepare the text • Avoid writing to the formula
  28. 28. Remember to • Understand the limitations of formulas • Use an appropriate formula • Use an automated tool • Prepare the text • Avoid writing to the formula
  29. 29. “ Improving comprehension by writing to a readability formula is like lighting a match under a thermometer ” to warm up a room. George Klare
  30. 30. Estimate the Reading Level of Users
  31. 31. Who is the general public?
  32. 32. In the United States 44 % % of adults have low literacy skills 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy
  33. 33. Rate of adults with low literacy skills Sweden 25% Netherlands 36% Germany 42% Australia 44% Switzerland 47% United Kingdom 50% Ireland 57% Hungary 67% Portugal 80% 1998 International Adult Literacy Survey (OECD)
  34. 34. REALM Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine • Word recognition test fat flu fatigue pelvic allergic menstrual • Quick and easy to administer pill dose jaundice infection testicle colitis • Participant says each word out eye stress exercise behavior emergency medication loud. Scored on number smear prescription occupation pronounced correctly nerves germs notify gallbladder sexually alcoholism 61-66: not low lit meals calories irritation disease depression constipation 45-60: grade 7-8 cancer miscarriage gonorrhea 19-44: grade 4-6 caffeine pregnancy inflammatory 0-18: grade 3 or below attack arthritis diabetes kidney nutrition hepatitis • Doesn’t matter if they know hormones menopause antibiotics the word’s meaning herpes appendix diagnosis seizure abnormal potassium bowel syphilis anemia asthma hemorrhoids obesity Davis T, Long S, et al rectal nausea osteoporosis Rapid estimate of adult literacy in medicine: a shortened screening instrument Fam Med. 1993; 25: 391-395 incest directed impetigo
  35. 35. Activity REALM
  36. 36. How have you tested readability ?
  37. 37. Q&A Angela Colter angelacolter.com/readability acolter@gmail.com

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