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Checking the Readability Level of your Training Documents

The reading level at which we create training materials matters. Here's a quick tip on how to find the reading level of your Word documents.

Last week I had an opportunity to present at the Online Learning Conference in Chicago. After my session was over, I snuck in to several other sessions, including Julie Dirksen’s session entitled The Science of Attention, Willpower and Decision-making for Better eLearning. The facts and figures she presented were compelling (especially the way in which she dispelled the “human attention span is only 8 seconds” statistic), but it was a Microsoft Word trick she mentioned in passing that I found most interesting and couldn’t wait to try.   

Unbeknownst to me, you can check the “readability” of your documents in Word and it will calculate a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score for your materials.

While the simple fact that you can do this in Word is fascinating to me (who knew Word had such tricks??), it actually seems like it could help the training materials I put together in the future.

While I’ve not seen any credible research on it, I have often heard that a good rule of thumb is to write business materials at the 8th grade level for maximum understanding. Our learners are busy professionals and often have other things to think about – while we don’t necessarily want to “dumb down” out content, there’s no harm in keeping our training materials and business writing simple enough to be easily processed.

As you can see, Word has informed me that the above section, as-written, is currently being rated at a grade level of 15.3.


How can you magically check the reading level of your writing? On my computer I hit Fn + F7 (although on other computers you need not hit “Fn”, you just press F7).

Just for fun, the following is my attempt to bring the above text down from a grade level rating of 15.3:

Last week I presented at an elearning conference. When I was done presenting, I attended someone else’s session. I learned that you can check the grade-level rating for your writing!

I’m fascinated by this new trick in Word. I also think it will be helpful for writing future training materials. I’ve heard that the rule of thumb is that we should write for an 8th grade audience.


Hmmm. Maybe I went a little too simple. But hopefully you get the point.

Stumbling upon this trick made me wonder what other hidden gems may be embedded within Word, just waiting to be discovered.

If you’ve found other shortcuts or commands in Word (or PowerPoint or any other Office program), please share in the Comment section!

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