Spell Checking Made Fun

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I'm glad that this chapter was first, because I have a lot to say about it.

"Your style checker can also give you a sense of the reading level of your text."-Kilian

I read these two chapters this morning, and then edited an essay that is due on Tuesday.  Don't yawn!  This preamble is going somewhere.  Anyway, after I finished with the essay, I was using the spell checker (for MS Word) when an idea hit my.  I turned on the "Readability Statistics" on under "Options" is the checker.  I had a little bit of fun going through some of my recent essays and writings to see how the fared with the two most popular formulas.

Most of the stuff I write falls into the 7-8 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale.  One was as high as 9.5, or so, while one was as low as 6.5.  I am ashamed to say that the latter was the novel that I have been working on in my spare time.  On those lovely researchers reading ease scores (which almost never matched up evenly), I scored in the 65-80 range.  The closer you are to one hundred, the easier it is to read your work.  The irony is that on the paper that I wrote at a 9.5 grade level, got a score in the upper 80's, while my free lance novel scored in the low sixties to redeem itself a little.

The final interesting thing that word does is checking for the passive voice.  I am proud to say (I think) that most of my papers averaged 12-15% in the passive voice, since I have no experience weeding those insidious sentences out of my paragraphs.  One of my papers, for Thinking and Writing, had 25% in the passive, which works out to almost two sentences a paragraph written in that voice.  I am proud to say that my novel thrived in this category with 6%.  Now that I have posted all of this personal information, I hope that people do not start coming in and saying, "I only had 1% in the passive voice.  Take that Jed." 

I feel like such a nerd for doing all of this, but I do think that it is neat how word does this for me.  I wonder if English majors had to memorize those two formulas back in the age before computers; they certainly look nasty.

One final thing that I found to be funny from the Wikipedia article (it is the same as the two links above, so it would be redundant to link again).  "The lowest grade level score in theory is -3.4, but, since there are few real passages that have every sentence consisting of a single one-syllable word, this rarely occurs in practice. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss comes close, averaging 5.7 words per sentence and 1.02 syllables per word, with a grade level of -1.3. (Most of the 812 words are monosyllabic; "anywhere," which occurs eight times, is the only exception.)"  Interesting!

Hopefully the EL236 site has a higher score than that.

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