Thursday, February 8, 2007

scoring manuscripts

Many writers will be familiar with MS-WORD’s spelling and grammar check capability in its Tools menu. I’ve often used this check to evaluate a completed Ms., particularly to find my total word count, Flesch Reading Ease score, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. It’s been interesting to check the Reading Ease and Grade Level of my work compared to more than a dozen best-seller authors analyzed by author James V. Smith, Jr., in his “Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer.” Smith's analyzes show that all of his best-seller authors typically log Reading Ease Scores between about 70 and 90; whereas, a U.S. Government manual describing combat actions that “any credible fiction writer could have turned into high-energy writing,” scored about 37. His best-seller authors also scored Grade Levels between about 4 and 6—which was surprising, since one of them, Wallace Stegner, was a Pulitzer Prize winner. So, even in good adult literary fiction, the grade level required to understand the language chosen was not necessarily high. The Gov. manual scored almost Grade 13. My most recent YA novel manuscript, about a girl who competes in karate, had a Reading Ease of 77, and a Grade Level of 6, so I figured that part was pretty good. Now, if only the story is interesting and marketable. You'll notice, if you try it, that brief, intense discussions like this, and story synopses, tend to score poorly because one tries to get too much info into a short piece. This post scored 52.5 in Reading Ease, and 11.2 in Grade Level.

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