The Flesch readability index yields meaningful information about the responses of readers to texts. Because the formula is so simple, a group of English teachers wrote a program in BASIC that would count some obvious surface features of a text and calculate Flesch scores. Among the programing problems encountered were counting words (taking into account numbers, acronyms, and abbreviations) and counting the number of syllables in a word (English has no regular rules for reliably dividing words into syllables). Using only this readability program will not ensure improved comprehension because the act of reading and comprehending involves so many interrelated factors. However, the program can be used to test the readability of government manuals, orders, instructions, and so on. It can also be used to alert writers to revise their prose according to the reading level of the intended audience and to serve as a taking-off point for a college classroom discussion of audience. An advantage of the readability program is that students can run it themselves. For those who use word processors, a readability program will probably end up as one more utility program--like a word counter or spelling checker--that quickly provides potentially useful information about one's prose. (HOD)
Spiegel, G. & Campbell, J.J. Measuring Readability with a Computer: What We Can Learn.