Document Readability

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When it comes to techie tips, I’m a junkie.  Hopefully there is something new for everyone in this weekly series or at least one special “Ah ha, so that is how you do it” when it for Outlook, Excel, Word, Acrobat, etc.

Thanks in advance to Google, my colleagues, and the exasperated IT guys over the years who have all contributed to expanding my geeky knowledgebase.

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Document Readability

For today’s installment, let’s simplify our language.  This tip comes from my good friend, Supriya who was recently revising and QCing an informed consent for one of the clinical trials she works on.  She wanted to check that all the required elements for compliance were there (i.e. details of the trial procedures, risks to trial participants, HIPAA elements, etc.) but also that the consent was accessible enough in that the language was not too difficult to understand.

The Flesch Kincaid Grade Level

I was delighted when she showed me that MS Word can evaluate readability for you and tell you if you have passive voice, complex sentences, etc.  They assign it a Flesch scale number which indicates the ease of reading and also the Flesch-Kincaid grade level so you can check that your writing is at the appropriate and intended education level. Generally, a lower score is best in most circumstances because that means that your content will be more easily understood by a larger audience.  Maybe I’ll need to start applying this more regularly to my blog posts to keep the word counts in check!

I have Microsoft Office 2010 on a PC, so these step-by-step instructions and screenshots may not be a perfect match to what you see.

1) To turn the readability function on, you go to File->Options->Proofing and then tick the box called “show readability statistics”.

word optionsfile menu

2) To execute the function, just click Review->Spelling and Grammarreview check spelling

3) Word reviews your document and then at the conclusion of the spellcheck Word issues a pop-up window with your results.

readability output

Putting it Plainly

The ability to make complex concepts simple enough for all audiences is an imperative skill for the clinical operations toolkit. Smaller sentences. Less syllables.

What’s on tap for next week’s installment?

I hope you enjoy content like this.  I will plan to update this series every Tuesday.  If you have questions, comments, or other topic ideas I would love for you to leave a comment or contact me via email.

You may also like: From the Lead CRA Blog

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About The Author

Nadia

Nadia Bracken, lead contributor to the Lead CRA blog and the ClinOps Toolkit blog, is a Clinical Program Manager in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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