Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Can Statistical Analysis Tell Us If Our Writing Is Interesting?

For many years, I traveled all over the US and sometimes internationally teaching training programs in corporations.  Some of that time, a great deal of it in my early years doing that work, I was teaching business writing in manufacturing, package goods, advertising , pharmaceutical, and financial companies.  Teaching engineers, financial analysts, and marketers to write clearly and concisely helped develop me as a writer.  Every once in a while, one of my students would give me and article or copies of pages from books that he or she thought would help me make my points or teach my subject in a new way.  At one point, an advertising account executive gave me a couple of charts he found instructive.  They offered ways of counting certain types of words and then using scales to determine if a certain piece of writing was easier or more difficult to read and also if it is interesting or not.  When they turned up in a recent attempt to make room in the file drawers, I looked at them in a different light and wondered if they had any use in the writing of fiction.  Here they are:

The reading level scale, if it actually works, might have some relevance to writers who are hoping to break in to the children's or young adult market.  It might also be useful for people who are looking to break through to the mass market paperback market.

The scale that measures how interesting the prose is never made a whole lot of sense to me as it applied to a chemical researchers progress report or a financial analysts conclusions, but writers of murder mysteries might actually use such a tool.  Suppose one used it, not about the personal connection to the author, but the personal connection to the characters.

What do you think.  Could/should a writer of fiction use such a scale to measure his or her own work?  

Annamaria Alfieri


  1. I am always in favor of any kind of scale or measurement or criterion to check how well or not I am writing! But, in the end analysis, I think most writers find it very hard to honestly judge his/her own work! So many factors come into play - the intent of the piece and the author, the secondary goals, the true inspiration for that particular piece, the willingness to be totally impartial, the trends of the environment, the changing tastes of the public, etc. But, your measurment looks good and I'm game to test it out! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  2. Depends on whether or not you think you're in trouble. Since we're all in trouble at one time or another, what with confidence waxing and waning, I say print the thing out and use it as an advanced pencil-sharpening exercise in times of insecurity. Like perfume, though, or compliments. Inhale don't swallow.