Meet Wiley Brooks

While great novels require inspiration, the key trait of PR writing—whether it is anews release, an op-ed, a white paper, a crisis plan or even just an email—is clarity. There are so many words competing for our minds that any message that is not easy to read and easy to recall is doomed. Fortunately, there are tools, like the one on this site, that help show if a document might be clear and easy to read.

There is a science behind clear writing that few lay writers even know about, butis widely accepted by those who study writing. Rudolf Flesch was a Columbia University professor in the middle of the 20th Century. Largely regarded as the Einstein of writing, Flesch developed mathematical formulas that correctly gauge if a document could be quickly read and easily understood.

In about 1950, Professor Flesch published his findings for what is known as Flesch Reading Ease. Apart from what the words might mean, Flesch was able to show that how we choose words and build sentences govern how easy a sentence or document is to read. He showed that writing is only part inspiration. The other part was science.

Flesch was not just about a document being easy to read, though. He found that there was a direct link between the ease of reading and how likely the reader was to understand what she had just read. A high score meant that she would quickly absorb about 75 to 80 percent of the content. Flesch reasoned that if someone could easily grasp three-fourths of the content, the writer had done a good job of communicating. That level of "getting it" works for PR, too.

Flesch made it easy to understand the results. His scale went from 0 to 100. If something scored a zero, it would be hopeless to quickly read and understand. If it scored 100, any nitwit who could read at all would have no trouble with it. To put it another way, a Flesch score of 60 means that 60 percent of your readers will be able read and easily understand what you wrote.

For PR people, we should never settle for a score less than 60. Our clients pay us to deliver their messages. When a score falls below 60, a fog starts to shroud its content. Why would you let that happen?

See some typical Flesch scores for leading media | Go back to the writing tool
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Crisis quote by Mark Twain