Articles on: Readability Formulas

Why is your Linsear-Write formula different?

I understand you may be thinking, "Isn't it Linsear-Write? How come other readability tools like and Hemingway Editor use Linsear-Write but yours is different?"

If you're an avid user of Linsear-Write along with other formulas, we get why this might be alarming - that we're the only site who use it this way. 

The fact is, we're the only site that's using this particular readability formula the way it was intended. 

There are simply no reliable sources that point to Linsear-Write as a formula that calculates a US grade level. We didn't want to implement a formula for which even the Wikipedia article only vaguely cites 'US Navy' as the creators and not an actual author.

If you google it, you'll see that this is the case on all the sites that use or mention it - they're just parroting the source they've seen without questioning it. We couldn't even find it by scouring academic resources.

We didn't stop here - we opened dozens of tabs in a research frenzy, determined to find a proper source. Instead, we stumbled upon the real formula - Lensear Write - which has a real author who wrote a real book about a really interesting way of looking at readability. 

His name is John O'Hayre and he wrote a book called Gobbledygook Has Gotta Go (1966), where he publishes the original formula in all its glory. I believe we're the first to convert that into an algorithm, and not the uncited , slightly dubious modified version.

Although many readability formulas were written for the US Navy, O'Hayre's wasn't. He was from the Bureau of Land Management's Western Information Office in Denver, Colorado. He wrote the book to combat "governmentese" in his own department. 

Lensear Write takes into account quite unusual factors which are not present in other readability formulas, which is why we offer it as an additional score and don't include it in your overall readability rating.

These factors include the number of one-syllable words and a count from a set of particular verbs which may contribute to passive voice.

O'Hayre advises to aim for a score between 70 and 80 (the scoring range is between 0 and 100, 100 being the easiest to read). He advises that a score above 85 you may be oversimplifying, and below 70 may be too complicated.

We're working on getting some content up on the blog about this formula very soon. In the meantime, if you have any more questions about this formula or any of our other algorithms in our offering, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Updated on: 03/05/2020

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