How to Get Microsoft Word to Check Your Document’s Readability

Writing is easy, but writing well is an art form in itself. Different scales exist with the goal of determining readability and writing quality, with one of the Flesch-Kincaid scales shaping American governmental documents. Many people write using word processors but pass over the settings relating to grammar, style and readability.

Microsoft Word comes with options for the Flesch-Kincaid scales by default. Self-critique is exceptionally difficult when it concerns writing, although the scale may help draw your attention to recurring themes or stylistic faults. Enabling the options should be the same from Office 2007 onwards, though the screenshots taken are from Office 2013.

Begin by clicking the Office logo button in Office 2007. As of Office 2010, a “File” button replaced the older logo.


At the bottom of the menu that appears, Office 2007 should include a button called “Word Options.” Office 2010 and later simply call this “Options,”f though they have the same effect.


The window that appears at this point should be the same.


The “Proofing” option is the same irrespective of program version. The heading “When correcting spelling in Word” should have a final checkbox labelled “Enable readability scoring.” Check this to enable the Flesch-Kincaid scale; the program does not need restarting.


Word will not assess the document’s readability until it has also checked the spelling and grammar. In order to do this, click the “Review” tab and then “Spelling & Grammar.”


If Word has any changes to propose, a pane on the right should slide in. The changes are non-essential, though they can highlight minor adjustments benefiting readability. There is no way to skip all of the changes suggested, but another window will appear once completed. The final section of this window is about document readability.


“Reading Ease” runs between 0 and 100. Documents that score a perfect “100” are likely to be extremely simple, such as children’s books, and those that score “0” are liable to be near incomprehensible.


Highlighting a sentence allows you to assess it alone, meaning any outliers in length, style, or complexity are apparent.


As a general rule sentences such as “The dog went to bed” will score 100% on readability, but score lowly on the grade level.


The grade level works as an approximation of American school grade systems, with a higher grade reflecting a more complex writing style. Older versions of Word appear to have been limited to a maximum of a 12.0 grade score, though newer versions seem to be able to score more highly than this: in actuality, Word scores this paragraph at 12.2.