Understanding and improving your reading ease score

Readability is a huge contributory factor to how well your job adverts will convert.

Readability:
98%

Poorly written adverts may put people off applying, and in an environment where the battle for the best people is intense as ever, well frankly every 1% counts.

Which is why we added the readability ease score within AdGrader.

How it works

AdGrader looks at your advert text and scores it’s reading ease using the Flesch reading calculation.

It’s a really common way of grading reading ease, and even MS Word uses it if you assess how good a document is you’ve created. There are loads of resources about it online if you dig around.

It was developed by Rudolph Flesch in 1948.

Its purpose is to appraise how readable and understandable a piece of text is. The formula gives a score out of 100, which for the purposes of AdGrader we convert to a percentage.

Mathematically this is how the score is calculated:

Here is a rough guide of what the reading ease scores mean:

  • 90-100: Very Easy
  • 80-89: Easy
  • 70-79: Fairly Easy
  • 60-69: Standard
  • 50-59: Fairly Difficult
  • 30-49: Difficult
  • 0-29: Very Confusing

Ideally, you want your job adverts to have a score of 60% or over. Anything below that and it becomes more challenging and potentially confusing for the reader, and it may only be readily understood by more academic / well-read people.

What having a low score means

Simply put, if you’ve got a low reading ease score, you’re almost certainly using lots of long words in long sentences.

And using long words has a much bigger impact than using long sentences.

If you look at the equation above, there is a weighting of 84.6 given to syllables per word (highlighted in blue), as opposed to 1.015 given to words per sentences.

Which means that if you use lots of words with lots of syllables in them, then that will really hurt your reading ease score as that will generally require more intelligence to be able to understand what’s being said.

Make sense?

So when we look at couple of practical examples you see this bear out. Let’s use a base example of a 500 word advert, with 40 sentences and 700 syllables in it.

In this instance the reading ease score is 75.7.

If we then increase the total number of syllables in the advert to 800, so just an increase of 100 syllables over the entire advert, this is what happens to the reading ease score:

But if we decreased the total number of syllables down to 600, so an average of 1.2 syllables per word, this is what happens to the reading ease score:

Doing this increases your reading ease score by 16.9, which is a huge difference.

Reducing the number of words per sentence also has a positive effect, but it’s nowhere near as drastic as the effect of reducing the number of syllables per word.

Here’s a quick example where we increase the number of sentences on the original level to 50 sentences:

All those 10 extra sentences did, with the same number of words, was increase your reading ease score by 2.5.

So what does it mean to you?

The challenge for you is to make your adverts as easy to understand as possible. That way, you should end up with more people applying to your roles.

The words you use matter. Period.

Makes sense yeah? But what if you’ve created your adverts, and the reading ease score is way below 60%?

If that’s the case, here are four quick ways you can change what you’ve written to improve your score:

#1. Use concise language

Are you someone that loves to show off their wordsmith skills, use flowery language and long sentences? Well if you are, then chances are you’re really hurting your reading ease score.

The last thing you want is for your potential perfect hire to be bogged down in text and confused by what you’re trying so say.

They want to understand what it is the job does and requires, and quickly too. Attention spans are limited in a job search.

Candidates will flick from job to job, looking for the one that interests them most.

So, a couple of easy ways in which you can achieve this is though:

  • Ditch the overly complex jargon and buzzwords that might not mean much to your audience
  • Avoid flowery language, adverbs and over-the-top adjectives that don’t add much to your text
  • Use simple words that are easy to understand

#2. Cut the length of your sentences and paragraphs.

The most readable content is the type that gets straight to the point. The Flesch reading ease score looks at how long sentences, words and syllables are and uses that as the basis for the score.

As a result, simple and concise text will always perform better than longer, more elaborate text as it’s much easier for readers to skim and digest.

When you’re looking to shorten your text consider the following:

  • Never have more than 5 sentences in a paragraph.
  • Try to use words with the fewest number of syllables possible
  • Don’t confuse your readers with overly long sentences that are linked with excessive commas and semicolons.

#3. Use full stops at the end of bullet points

Whether or not you should use bullet points depends on the context in which you’re writing them.

A great explanation on how and when to finish a bullet point with a full stop can be read here.

But for the purposes of the reading ease score, if you have lots of bullet points in a list, and none of them have a full stop, then the algorithm will assume that it’s one continuous sentence, and your reading ease score will be negatively impacted.

It’s arguable whether or not using a full stop at the end of a bullet point improves readability, but the algorithm certainly thinks it does.

So for safety’s sake, it’s probably best to include them just in case.

#4. Write for your audience.

We’d always recommend achieve a reading ease score of over 60%, but this is only a guide. You can use the score to your advantage.

For instance, if you want to attract hard-core academics, then you probably want an advert that does have more complex sentence construction and words, and consequently a lower reading ease score.

In fact, conversely for those people, simpler text may put them off applying.

So, when thinking about who your target audience is, consider these questions:

  • What’s the education level of my perfect hire? Recent school leavers, or Ph.D graduates?
  • Does my perfect hire understand industry jargon and slang?
  • How does my reader speak and think? In a formal or informal way?

Use your answers to these questions to help guide you as to what score you’re looking for.