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Flesch Formula – Definition

Flesch Reading Ease Formula Definition

The Flesch Formula, also known as the Flesch Reading Ease Formula, is a formula used to gauge the difficulty or ease of reading and understanding a text. Two primary metrics in the formula are the number of sentences and syllables per 100 words in a passage. Based on historical results, it estimates the percentage of the US population capable of reading and understanding the text. In essence, short words and sentences are easier to read and understand than long ones.

A Little More on What is the Flesch Reading Ease Formula

The Flesch Formula provides a readability index score that ranges from 0 to 100. Higher scores indicate greater ease in readability and understanding. The generally scoring cutoffs are as follows:

  • 100 =  Extremely easy
  • 65 = Relatively easy
  • 30 = Difficult
  • 0 = Extremely Difficult

Academic Research on Flesch Formula

Simplification of Flesch Reading Ease Formula., Farr, J. N., Jenkins, J. J., & Paterson, D. G. (1951). Journal of applied psychology35(5), 333. Simplification of the Flesch Reading Ease Formula was done by counting one syllable words per 100 words instead of numbering the syllables per 100 words. In this study, 360 one-hundred word samples were taken from 22 handbooks of employee put out by various divisions of the General Motors Corporation. The result of this correlation was -91. By this correlation, a new derivation of reading ease regression equation was gotten. In this paper, a table to facilitate the computation of the new reading ease index was prepared and also presented.

A simplified Flesch formula, Foulger, D. (1978). Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly55(1), 167. Readability formulas in times past, over the past 45 years, have regularly appeared and disappeared. Three out of these formulas were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. And these formulas stand out. The first formulas cannot be referred to as much as a formula. The second, the Dale Chall is a collaboration of two researchers working on a problem of readability for several years. Although, this formula is commendable, yet it is complicated and requires consultation for word usage. A best of these formulas is the reading ease formula. It is the best combination of simplicity, usefulness, and meaningfulness.

Automation of the Flesch reading ease readability formula, with various options, Klare, G. R., Rowe, P. P., St. John, M. G., & Stolurow, L. M. (1969). Reading research quarterly, 550-559. This paper illustrates a computer program of flexibility and increased accuracy. This program is for the application of Flesch Reading Ease in addition to other readable formulas. The program has features such as its ease of use, usefulness to educators and the fact that it runs on a well-known computing system in addition to its well-recognized programming language. Its modular form makes for easy changes. The sole purpose for the creation of this program is to analyze and generate educational contents. It will also be a part of a general set of programs called PAGES.

Assessing reading levels of health information: uses and limitations of flesch formula, Jindal, P., & MacDermid, J. (2017). Education for Health30(1), 84-84. To inform and access patients in clinical practice by health care professionals (HCP), written health information is commonly used. The stress on HCPs and researches increases due to the growing self-management of several health conditions and also increase in information search behavior of patients. This stress is to lead HCPs and researchers to create and implement readable formulas and understandable health information. Researchers and HCPs use formulas such as Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level (FKRGL).

Developing the Flesch reading ease formula for the contemporary accounting communications landscape, Stone, G., & Parker, L. D. (2013). Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management10(1), 31-59. The accounting literature’s dominant readability formula, Flesch, is examined and critiqued in this paper. In addition, this paper sets out to expand the view, applicability and relevance to researcher’s efforts to better understand and critique how effective accounting communications are. It also proposes refinement and augmentation to the formula. Setting a robust foundation to create awareness for practitioners and policy maker’s interest is one aim this paper seeks to extend. Both the practitioners and policy maker’s interest is for the effective communication with target stakeholders.

The Flesch Readability Formula: Still alive or still life?, Wolf, R. A. (2013).  (Bachelor’s thesis, University of Twente). This paper seeks to reveal the trend in the place of language. It explains the critical significance of language using it as a major difference between man and the animal kingdom in general. Although language has its complexities, yet is arguably the single most important factor. It further brings into realization how technology has revolutionalized and eased communication and has aided the transference of knowledge from one age to another. This paper gives a comprehensive analysis of the application of the Flesch formula.

A validity study of the Flesch readability formula applied to mathematic materials, Fecteau, B. D. (1955).  (Doctoral dissertation, Boston University)

READABILITY LEVELS OF READING TEXTS IN “ENGLISH IN FOCUS” BASED ON FLESCH-KINCAID FORMULA, Trilestari, K. (2017). HOLISTICS8(15). A textbook is usually used when a teacher is teaching reading. All reading texts have unique readability and hence accommodate reading learning process. Based on the analysis of language variables, readability is a major instrument to measure the word difficult. A question to be answered is: “in the reading text in the textbook.” The readability levels of reading the text in “English in Focus,” a textbook for the eighth graders;  book produced by National Education Department (2008), is what this descriptive study attempts to find out. And this is based on the Flesch-Kincaid formula.

Should Flesch counts count?, Croll, W., & Moskaluk, S. (1977). Teaching of Psychology4(1), 48-49. The treadability count is a function of the brevity of sentences in the book. The shorter the words, the more the book is assumed to be readable. This paper does not however clearly show the the Fleasch formula is discrimated among books. In the results from this paper, the ratings of the students were averaged to yield a mean readability score and from ten books, a mean interest score was calculated. Flesch’s ratings indicate that on the book score, it was among the ten.

Is time up for the Flesch measure of reading ease?, Hartley, J. (2016). Scientometrics107(3), 1523-1526. This paper seeks to argue that the Flesch Reading Ease measure, popularly used to measure how difficult text in various disciplines is now unreliable, outdated and wrongly used. This discipline includes Scientometrics.

Factorial analysis of the original and the simplified Flesch reading ease formulas., Dunnette, M. D., & Maloney, P. W. (1953). Journal of Applied Psychology37(2), 107. Factorially, an experiment was designed to examine the effects on both accuracy and time of naïve subjects (freshman English students) in the performance of readable counts. The factors highlighted were: (1) reading material difficulty (2) the type of count performed (3) ability of subjects to read (4) sex of the subjects. There was a significant interaction found between difficulty level and type of count. There was also a higher level of accuracy with the syllable count with easy material; the one syllable word with difficult material. There was a conclusion drawn by the authors that the new formula is simpler because its application is with greater accuracy in less time.


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