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Lija Greenseid on Using a Readability Calculator

My name is Lija Greenseid. I am a Senior Evaluator, with Professional Data Analysts, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN. We conduct evaluations of stop-smoking programs. Smokers generally have lower education and literacy levels than the general population. Therefore, we want to make sure the materials we develop are understandable to smokers.

Rad Resource: Use a “readability calculator” to check the reading-level of your written materials. I have used this with program registration forms, survey instruments, consent statements, and other materials. Not surprisingly, the first drafts of my materials are often written at a level only grad students (and evaluators) can understand. With a critical eye and a few tweaks I can often rewrite my materials so that they are at an eighth-grade reading level, much more accessible to the people with whom I want to communicate.

A good Readability Calculator can be found here:

It provides you with both a reading ease score, and a number of different measures of the US school grade level of the text.

This blog posting is rated at a high-school reading level. Do you agree?

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to

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  • Susan Kistler on Welcoming the Data Visualization & Reporting TIG and DVR Resources | AEA365 · February 5, 2011 at 8:53 am

    […] Need tips to increasing the accessibility and readability of your materials? Jennifer Sullivan Sulewski on Using Universal Design to Make Your Evaluations More Inclusive, Lyn Paleo on Graphic-Based Reports and Graphics for Color-Impaired Readers, and Lija Greenseid on Using a Readability Calculator. […]


  • Peggy Polinsky · April 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    do you know of any tools for guiding one to reduce the reading level to 5th or 6th grade? i have a survey that i just can’t get below 7.3. thanks.


  • Lija Greenseid · April 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Here’s a reference from a CDC report from December 2009 and a relevant quote from the report:

    “In 2008, the highest prevalence of smoking was in adults at least 25 years of age with low educational attainment (41.3% for persons with a General Educational Development certificate and 27.5% for those with less than a high school diploma vs 5.7% for those with a graduate degree).”


  • Tim Desgroseilliers · April 12, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I was curious about the data collection methods that you used to establish that smokers generally have lower education and literacy levels than the general population. Was there actually a comparison group that was used in the correlation between the two? Or is this just a general bias statement?


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