Saturday, December 08, 2007

How Readable Is Your Blog?

I always wonder, when I write a post on this blog, whether it is going to make any sense to even half of the readers. It's clear from some of the comments that I confuse the hell out of certain people.

I just came across something that might help me, an online tool that analyzes the readability of blogs in terms of the education level necessary to understand a blog. So I ran some of my favorite sailing blogs through The Blog Readability Test.

Here are the results...

Elementary School

Junior High School

High School

College (undergrad)
College (postgrad)


Hmmm. I expect I will be hearing more about that last one.

Anyway, run your own or your favorite blogs through the tester and let me know what you find out.


Frank said...

Well I must be a terrible writer or the algorithm of this site is too confused by words like 'protestor', 'protestee', etc. Keeping clear needs more geniuses! It could also be my English, seeing it's not my mother language.

Tillerman said...

My guess is that any site that's about the Racing Rules of Sailing is likely to achieve genius status on this test!

Turinas said...

BoingBoing the number one ranked blog according to Technorati is High School; Gizmodo the number 2 is Junior High School and get this, Criticsrant who created this so-called analytical tool(whoever they are) is Elementary school. The word twaddle comes to mind

Tillerman said...

Not sure what your point is Adam. It's not clear exactly what criteria this test uses but it's probably some variation of the Flesch-Kincaid Formula which uses number of syllables per word and sentence length.

I'm not sure there's a good or bad place to be on the scale. If you rank Elementary School it means your blog is very easy to read. But if you rank Genius maybe you're dealing with very complex issues that need big words and long sentence to explain.

It does not surprise me at all that very popular blogs such as BoingBoing rank near the middle of the scale.

Ant said...

It's an interesting test, wonder wether the readings will have changed through the life of this blog or whether I have always been a "basic language" kinda blogger?

So, although it may not be a compliment, I certainly think it's a damned good thing that my blog is accessible by kids and adults, ludites and intellectuals alike!

But maybe I should start using some bigger words, just to add to the education of those pre-school kids reading my blog :-)

Tillerman said...

I think that ranking Elementary is a compliment to your ability to write in a way that is accessible to everyone. Well done.

tugster said...

interesting idea to check the eeadability. my partner does i'm sure hers would be genius.

not that i'm being defensive, but tugster is a fotoblog. what one reads* from images and their juxtaposition can't be measured by
existing software. also, i let my links do expansions; that's not measured either. then there's the reader overseas who's interested
in ny and shipping but whose english skills are weak: i want to cater to that reader, and my clustermap shows how many non-usa
readers i have.

anyhow . . . really, i'm not defensive. i like your work

cheers and keep sailin/bloggin

will aka tugster

Tillerman said...

Will, for what it's worth, Sex In The Public Square ranks High School on the readability test.

Remember, it's not a test of how smart the writer is. It's meant to be a test of how educated you need to be to be able to read and understand that blog.

David said...

Well, this is quite interesting. Never Sea Land, my blog, rates "Genius", even though it is mostly silly news storys and pictures, and unclad mermaids. My seven-year-old daughters blog The Cat Who Sailed the Seven Seas, which is a blog of her poems, also rates "Genius". Pepys' Diary rates only "High School". Blogs in foreign languages, like SIMBA, also are "Genius". I didn't think I was so inaccessable!



tillerman said...

It is tough to see why some of those blogs are rated as Genius, which in this context means "very hard to read". David, you do have some foreign language in your blog so that may be a factor.

As a little experiment I tried the test on that famously obscure passage of Stuart Walker's Unlocking the Mysterious Lake Winds. It chundered away for a few seconds and then smoke started coming out of the vent on my laptop, the keyboard started to melt, and my pants caught on fire.

Only joking. But it did score Genius. Which I guess is some validation.

Team Gherkin said...

[coughs and splutters, snorting his cup of tea out of his nose] Team Gherkin? "Genius"?!? What. the...?!?
[falls off chair laughing] hahahaa.

Yeah, I'm a hard person to read, so it's only fair that my blog would come back that way! hahahaaa :D

Carol Anne said...

So I'm sesquipedalian and given to compound-complex sentences.

Carol Anne said...

Follow-up on that last comment ...

The problem is that lucidity cannot truly be measured by mathematical methods. Yes, shorter words and shorter sentences can be eaiser to undertsand. But that's not necessarily the case. I have seen samples of writing where the sentences and the words are very short, but the meaning is completely unclear because the writer has forgotten to include vital connections that exist inside the writer's head but that don't exist anywhere else. I have also seen writing that contains many very long sentences, but because all of the clauses in the sentence are connected in a logical and meaningful manner, the writing isn't hard to understand at all. And many such pieces of writing include big words, but those words are chosen because they have the precise meaning that is needed, rather than to replace a short word that would do as well.

Turinas said...

I was having a bit of a bah humbug moment :)

I didnt get the way this tool worked, I read it as a blog like Tugster's for example was elementary school level in design and content not written to be understood that way. It would have helped if I had read the post more carefully.

Tillerman said...

No problem Adam. I just ran this individual post through the readability checker and it came out as Genius. So it's my fault it was hard to understand.

I think I may be sesquipedalian.

PeconicPuffin said...

Confusticate and be bothered...this thing is annoyingly sucky.

Seems to me to be as on target as the sites that rate blogs for their sin factor.

Turinas said...

No Tman it's just the way your trousers hang.

bonnie said...

Elementary school. But then I'm generally shooting for accessibility, so that's really not a bad thing.

bonnie said...

Besides, it goes nicely with my G-rating (which honestly I mostly get because my parents read my blog)!

tillerman said...

Daid said: My seven-year-old daughters blog The Cat Who Sailed the Seven Seas, which is a blog of her poems, also rates "Genius".

I think this may be because, charming as her poems are, there isn't a single period in the whole blog as far as I can see. The test probably sees it as one 500 word sentence!

Pat said...

So-called readability measures, such as Flesch-Kincaid or Gunning-Fog, are just a first approximation for measuring the comprehensibility or difficulty of writing, as Carol Anne observes. And, given the severe limits of these tests, a title such as "pedant" or "bureaucrat" would be as accurate as "genius".

The real measure of "genius" would be people responding,
"I learned something new and wonderful here", or
"This is strange and disturbing, but worth figuring out", or
"My narrow-minded, medieval religious thought controller condemns these infidel ideas".

Hmmm, maybe I should do a readability test on my Notices of Race, Sailing Instructions, and Race Equipment checklist.

Then, we could compare those scores to the average reading abilities of Laser sailors, multihull sailors, keelboat sailors, America's Cup billionaires (not always good at understanding the Deed of Gift), and surfer dudes.

EVK4 said...

I wrote a sentence today with about 14 commas. I have, perhaps, a dozen gerunds and participles and other things that I vaguely remember from Jr. High. That should help my score. Plus I have an awesome Latin Motto.

In all seriousness, I believe that newspaper editors strive to write for an eighth grade reading level. It takes a very well educated writer to accomplish that as eighth grade writing is generally unreadable even by an eighth grade reader.

Zen said...

I'm there in elementary

Carol Anne said...

When I worked at a newspaper, the general idea was to aim at a sixth grade reading level. But then, I worked on the sports desk. I think the rest of the newspaper was aimed higher.

Debbie said...

What a hoot!

I ran my blog ( and came out at the junior high level. Which is good as I'm aiming for the 'dock ape idiot'.

Keep up the fun Tillerman.

tripsailor said...

I don't know what the test tries to measure, but I just did the test again with some of blogs you listed and got completly different results???

TripSailor Blog e.g. is genius too. it looks like i just depends on the last post?

Tillerman said...

Tripsailor, I suspect the test just measures the posts visible from the URL you give it, usually just the last few posts. Or maybe it's just some arbitrary cutoff like so many hundred words or the first post. Anyway it's not surprising that the ratings for blogs change if they put up new posts.

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