Readability statistics - what limitations?

Subject: Readability statistics - what limitations?
From: "Dann, Peter J" <PJDann -at- VCRPMAP -dot- TELECOM -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 08:05:00 EST

I often put my writing through Word's grammar checker to view the
readability statistics it generates (Flesch grade level, % of passive
sentences, Gunning fog index and so on). In particular, I like to see
whether Word thinks I have improved the readability of my text by editing
it.

Obviously, any purely statistic means of evaluating the 'readability' of a
piece of text must have its limitations - but I'm not quite sure what they
are.

Can anyone point me to a book or other source which explains how these
statistics are derived, and which discusses their usefulness and
limitations?

Does anyone incorporate these statistics in their own documentation
standards, or in document specifications (for example, by setting a maximum
Flesch grade level for a particular piece of work)?

Peter Dann
BISTEL project, Telstra, Australia
pjdann -at- vcrpmap -dot- telecom -dot- com -dot- au


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