The readability plugin for Microsoft Word 2010 scores a document for readability, cohesion and information density. These scores provide the author with an indication of how well their intended audience will understand their text. The scores use a variety of computational linguistic techniques to determine the reading level of the text, such as how frequently each word occurs in everyday language. Other readability measures, including those shown by performing a grammar check in Microsoft Word, use word length to rate difficulty. The problem with using word length is that words such as ‘information’ and ‘business’ being identified as difficult even though they are in common use. Additionally, these formulas only provide a number which does not clearly indicate the difficulty of the text or how best to improve it.
The readability plugin uses a variety of formulas to grade your document on its simplicity, technical content and coherence. It provides a series of ratings to give a clear indication of the quality of the text and highlights the most and least readable sentences in the text to help the author understand how to improve their text. The author can also import their own terminology to discount certain words as being difficult, which are used frequently by their audience.
Using the terminology allows expert authors to determine the difficulty of their text to other technical experts. The plugin also automatically identifies words and phrases that the author can either consider adding to their terminology or replace with a simpler alternative recommended by the Plain English Campaign. By encouraging the use of a terminology and providing feedback on how to improve text, the readability plugin can help authors provide useful written content for their intended audiences.
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