John Dixon, independent medical writer and trainer in scientific writing skills, assesses readability tools for screening biomedical text and their value to medical writers and editors.

Recorded 4 October 2017 at a MedComms Networking event in Oxford. Produced by NetworkPharma.tv

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ABSTRACT:

Delivering readable text means that our writing will have greater impact, be more easily understood, and increase the chances that the articles we write get published. So how do we increase readability, i.e. the ease of reading words and sentences, for our readers?

There are two common formulae for measuring the ease of reading: the Flesch reading ease and Flesch–Kincaid grade level formulae (the latter of which assesses education grade level). Both measure average words per sentence and average syllables per word, and are used by Microsoft Word and other tools to provide readability statistics. The readability statistics tool in MS Word also handily calculates the proportion of passive sentences in documents.

A drawback of these readability formulae is that they ignore grammatical issues. Another drawback, from a medical writer point of view, is that they were not primarily designed to measure the readability of scientific research articles, which generally include specialist technical vocabulary and score as very difficult on both indices. Online readability tools, such as Hemingway Editor and Readabie.io, which screen and highlight text for readability, may be more valuable for our purposes. The European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) journal, Medical Writing, is also a good source of articles about readability.

Written by Penny Gray, Freelance Medical Writer

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We are building a library of free webcasts, like this one, for the global MedComms Community and others at http://www.networkpharma.tv and we’d welcome your suggestions for new topics and speakers.

Full details of this MedComms Networking event are at http://medcommsnetworking.com/event_041017.html

John’s presentation (PDF format) is at http://medcommsnetworking.com/presentations/dixon_041017.pdf

John’s Linkedin page is at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johndixonlmm/

Filming and technical direction by Mario Crispino, Freelance Cameraman & Editor

[For the avoidance of doubt: this video is intended to be freely accessible to all. Please feel free to share and use however you like. Cheers Peter Llewellyn, Director NetworkPharma Ltd and Founder of the MedComms Networking Community activity at http://www.medcommsnetworking.com]