Erudition / Inteligibility Check

I have a question for you all! Shall we take a vote?

So. The other day I came across the following widget on someone’s blog and found it intriguing; you can get your blog rated for its reading level! I plugged my general blog URL in, and got this, which I then posted on my blogroll:

blog readability test

That was well and fine, until Sunday, when I thought to myself, “Gee Self, I sure use a lot of polysyllabic words, and more obscure and technical words, too. That’s pretty erudite for the average high-school reading level.”

So then I typed URLs for specific posts, and got several different stories! My post for Blogging Against Disablism Day (“BADD But Not Rude”) earned a higher level:

blog readability test

A more recent post on disablism and fallacious thinking, “Catapulting to Conclusions,” was apparently more technical:

blog readability test

And the latest insect post, “Home on the Range” was just too abstruse, according to the parameters of whomever came up with this ditzy little algorithm. (I’m not sure why, it’s actually rather non-technical.)

blog readability test

Funny, I don’t feel that brilliant. I just write that way (-:

So, what do you all think? Which reading level do YOU think is a more appropriate description for my blog?


  1. Cilla said,

    20 May 2008 at 20:32

    After grammer/spell checking a Word document it will give you a similar summary. A pop up screen will give averages in a piece… average sentences per paragraph, words per sentence and characters per word. Then it give a Readability Grade… the Flesh Reading Ease, Flesh-Kincaid grade level and passive sentences.

    I used to get House and Senate bill summaries from an attorney/lobbyist that i had to then into readable articles for the general population of people with disabilities. He didn’t want to be edited; so i made him keep re-writing until i got an article that was generally readable for the average 9th grader. Oh, he didn’t like me… but who was going to read his 24th grade level stuff? :)

  2. qw88nb88 said,

    9 May 2008 at 2:45

    Patrick said, “My response would be ‘just right’.
    I don’t think folks of a level of understanding similar to mine would keep coming back if things were either too simplistic or too complicated either way.’

    Andrea Shettle said, “You wrestle with some sophisticated ideas, but you usually strive to make them accessible and generally succeed.”

    Thank you, folks! I think those are very helpful answers!

  3. Will TS said,

    8 May 2008 at 20:56

    I like the fact that the widget associates the ‘Genius’ level with an image of brain anatomy from a high school biology text. My posts, which frequently use the words ‘sorta’ and ‘poopy’ were also rated ‘Genius’, and I don’t rite near as goodly as Andrea.

  4. 8 May 2008 at 18:39

    These algorithms, at least from my understanding of it, are based primarily on two factors:

    1. Average sentence length

    2. Average number of syllables per word

    They’re usually not sophisticated enough to account for nuances in word choice (some one-syllable words are more obscure than certain poly-syllable words). And they’re not sophisticated enough to distinguish between a fairly simple, straight-forward sentence like:

    “Billy likes many flavors of ice cream including …” (lists 31 different types, creating a sentence over 40 words long)

    And a more complex sentence with concentated dependent clauses and devilishly subtle qualifiers.

    Would be interesting to see an algorithm that does aim to make these kinds of distinctions. If they can do even the relatively crude computerized translations (such as at babelfish) then surely they could improve on the “reading level’ algorithms too.

    But, er, to bring this to your point (sorry, sometimes I have a hard time resisting digressions :-) )

    I guess your blog would tend to range between high school reading level to college level, at least in vocabulary and sentence structure. (Though it can be hard for me to judge because I don’t usually analyze writing that way.) You wrestle with some sophisticated ideas, but you usually strive to make them accessible and generally succeed.

    I ran my own blog through the same thing ( and it tested at “genius” level. Which was annoying for me because I usually TRY to keep it fairly accessible. Many of the people who read it learned English as a second or third language, or in some cases may be reading it through automated translations. (Automated translations tend to deal best with sentences that have fairly simple structure, and with unambiguous vocabulary — i.e., not too many words that have multiple, drastically different meanings.) I’m not sure if this is entirely a flaw with the algorithm being used, or if I haven’t been doing as well as I should given my audience. *sigh*

  5. Bev said,

    8 May 2008 at 18:38

    I was sure you were a genius until that little incident with the disappearing “8.” I’ve learned stuff here, that’s all’s I know.

  6. 8 May 2008 at 16:50


    genius, natch!

    what else?????

  7. Patrick said,

    8 May 2008 at 15:59

    Unfair question, in my opinion. I think your writing style, complexity and delivery varies depending on the subject of the post, but don’t think a widget has the analytical skills of a teacher in literature class, for instance. My response would be ‘just right’.

    I don’t think folks of a level of understanding similar to mine would keep coming back if things were either too simplistic or too complicated either way.

  8. qw88nb88 said,

    8 May 2008 at 14:26

    I agree with your assessment of the validity of these algorithms. My question is: What do you readers think would be a good description?

  9. Catana said,

    8 May 2008 at 14:07

    I submitted one of my blogs last week and it came up as college level, postgraduate. I’m not sure why, because I tend to avoid technical words as much as possible. I think the results of such online apps has about as much validity as the one that supposedly identifies your gender by your writing. By their standard, I can’t possibly be a female because my writing is so overwhelmingly male.

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