TN 3 (08-09)

NL 00610.020 Notice Readability Guidelines

Know your audience. Write to your average reader. Do not write to the experts, lawyers, or advocates unless they are your intended audience.

It is important to use short sentences as often as possible. The longer and more complex a sentence, the harder it is for readers to understand.

When writing notices:

  • Write at the sixth to eighth-grade reading level.

  • Use an average sentence length of no more than 15–20 words.

  • Use no more than seven lines per paragraph.

  • Use short, common words whenever possible.

A. Readability score definition

A readability score rates language text in terms of the reading level based on U.S. educational grade levels. A readability score is based on the average number of syllables per word as well as the average number of words in each sentence. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an individual with an eighth-grade education should be able to read and understand the document.

B. Checking the readability score

Check the readability score of the entire notice as well as the readability score of each paragraph in the notice. You do not need to check name and address blocks or any headings above the addressee’s name.

C. How to determine a readability score

Microsoft Word software analyzes text and identifies spelling errors, passive voice, and grammatical errors, and provides a readability grade level and score. The readability grade level and score are based on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Score.

1. Enable the Flesch-Kincaid feature

To enable the Flesch-Kincaid feature, take the following steps:

  1. Select “File”.

  2. Click “Options”.

  3. Select “Proofing”.

  4. Check the box “Show readability statistics” under “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word”.

  5. Click “OK” to return to your document.

2. Check the reading level

To check the reading level and obtain readability statistics for the language in your notice, take the following steps:

  1. Highlight the sentence, paragraph, or document you want to check.

  2. Press the “F7” key.

  3. Resolve any grammar and spelling alerts.

  4. Answer “no” at the dialogue prompt box, to the question, “Do you want to check the rest of the item?”


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0900610020
NL 00610.020 - Notice Readability Guidelines - 06/01/2017
Batch run: 06/01/2017
Rev:06/01/2017