Sunday, April 13, 2008

#51: Use Readability Statistics to Improve Your Grant Application

I find it hard to believe that I've offered fifty grant writing tips and I haven't included readability statistics yet. If you use WORD you'll find this an invaluable feature.

These are the statistics for a draft of a grant I was working on last week. I check on the statistics periodically, and always before I start serious editing.

Here's what these statistics tell me to look for when I'm editing:

Sentences per Paragraph 2.9 -- that's low. Low is good. It means lots of white space; separation of ideas. But, it's probably skewed by my frequent use of bullets.

Words per Sentence 17.6. TOO LONG! Well, now I know that as I edit I should look for sentences that include more than one thought.

Passive Sentences: 6% -- Good girl, Ruth! I've work hard to build the habit of writing in the active tense. I've written about that elsewhere.

Flesch Reading Ease Score: Rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For most standard documents, the 'experts' aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70. Hmmm, mines only 36.1.

The formula for the Flesch Reading Ease score evaluates average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences) and average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words). So, if I can reduce my sentence length by eliminating unnecessary wordiness and limiting sentences to one thought, I can probably get this score up.

Flesch - Kincaid Grade Level
-- Rates text on a U.S. school grade level. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. For most documents, aim for a score of approximately 7.0 to 8.0. 12.6, my score, not good. Eighth grade can be tough a tough target for some grant applications, but I'll do what I can. This grant dealt with the court system and had significant court-related language.

How to Turn Readability Statistics on: Tools>>Options>> Spelling & Grammar>> then check 'Show readability statistics.' Once you've turned this option on, Readability Statistics display every time the spell-checker completes its review of your document.

(Note: In this same screen, you can also click settings to adjust the grammar checker to reflect your preferences regarding style and punctuation issues. OOPS! Does that count as resource #52?)

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1 comment:

Jason Shechtman said...

I had NO idea that function existed for Word! I've had a chance to play with it a little and I love it! Thanks for the tip!