For Marianne and others of us fighting trolls in our writing, we’ll take active help in our battles.
One powerful weapon in our word processing software can do more than make our words look pretty. A special element in the software can not only check spelling and grammar but also determine the number of passive sentences.
While passive sentences can be necessary trolls, usually we writers fight to keep our sentences active. Active subjects create power on the page.
This gadgety element gives you the Reading Ease for any document.
Newspapers are often written at a 6th grade reading level.
Consider these authors:
- Cormac McCarthy writes at a 5th grade level.
- J.K. Rowling = The first Harry Potter is close to 6th grade. The last is close to 8th grade.
- Stephen King = 6th grade level.
- J.R.R. Tolkien = 6th.
- John Grisham = 6th.
- Tolstoy = 8th.
- Michael Crichton = close to 9th.
- The Affordable Care Act = 12th.
- KJV Bible >> This can cause controversy because several websites list everywhere from 5.8 grade to 12th. That might occur because some books are easier than others: Compare Ecclesiastes to Isaiah.
I don’t remember who first said this wonderful statement, and the internet failed my search. (Surprise! The internet does NOT have all the answers.) But . . .
“It doesn’t take a genius to make something hard. It takes a genius to make something easy.”
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a wonderfully rich allegory with symbolic dreams and lyrical passages . . . and is written at a 4th grade reading level.
Quality of writing is not in “big words”. Obfuscation obscures; clarity reveals.
Quality of writing is in approach, perspective, craft. Remember, we are in writing to communicate.
The next time you wonder if you are “showing off” rather than communicating, find out by checking the reading level.
Step 1: Go to FILE > OPTIONS.
Step 2: Select PROOFING.
Step 3: Click the box “Show Readability Statistics” so that it has a check mark.
Step 4: Click OK.
You are almost ready to rock.
Step 5: In the ribbon across the top, select REVIEW.
Step 6: To the far left is a big check mark and the words “Spelling & Grammar”. Click it.
Run the proofing check, accepting or ignoring changes as the software offers it.
When complete, you will have a pop-up window called “Readability Statistics” with all sorts of information.
Number of words, paragraphs, sentences.
Words per sentence. Characters per word.
Most importantly, you will have the percentage of Passive Sentences, Reading Ease, and Grade Level.
Have fun checking your writing.
And don’t strive for a scholarly, erudite tone unless you want to impress a college professor.