I once had a colleague/SME asking me if I used readability tests for checking the technical documentation. “Something like Flesch-Kincaid” he said. I had no idea what he was talking about. It sounded sinister with the name ‘Flesch-Kincaid’ and I wondered if it was some new mind-controlling technique that would mean us writers would be out of a job. But, not to worry. It was useless for our profession and here is why:
- Usability tests are 100 times better.
- Readability tests are simply counting mechanisms. They count words, sentences, syllables etc.
- Readability tests have no ‘intelligence’ behind them. They do not read text, they simply measure some parameters.
- If a style guide is being followed and some form of simplified English is used in your organisation, a readability test will tell you nothing you do not know already.
- Lastly, if you write for a discipline/profession where you must use specific terminology, the readability tests will score your content lower.
All in all, they feel a little silly to me. But – But – they are the type of programs that could develop into something special in years to come. Would that be our utopia or a thing from our worst nightmares?