Policies and Procedures

Readability of Written Policies

Tools for determining reading ease, grade level and general readability of written policies.

Documents written in Plain Talk will include:

  • Clear language that is commonly used by the intended audience
  • Only the information needed by the recipient, presented in a logical sequence;
  • Short sentence
  • Sentences, written in active voice, that make it clear who is responsible for what
  • Layout and design that help the reader understand the meaning on the first try. This includes adequate white space, bulleted lists, helpful headings and other proven techniques.
    (from the Governor’s Executive Order 05-03)

The Policy Advisor Committee recommends that Policies be written with the following scores:

  • Active Voice: Goal is 10% or less passive sentences.
  • Flesch–Kinkaid Grade Level Score: Goal is Grade 8
  • Flesch Reading Ease Score: Goal is 60+

One easy way to find these calculations is by turning on the Readability Statistics in Word. Here’s how. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.

  1. Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  2. Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  3. On the Standard toolbar, click Spelling and Grammar. When you check spelling and grammar, it will now display information about the reading level of the document.

Flesch Reading Ease score

Rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score

Rates text on a U.S. school grade level. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. For most documents, aim for a score of approximately 7.0 to 8.0.

Active/Passive Voice

To write clear policies, writers need to indicate precisely who is responsible for actions and decisions. Passive voice construction can leave the reader unclear about who should do what.

Passive voice examples:

  • An announcement was made.
  • The document will be signed.
  • A decision will be communicated.

Active voice examples:

  • The Vice President made the announcement.
  • The President will sign the document.
  • The Dean will communicate the decision.