My day job consists of writing copy to help patients understand their medications and how to take them. As my audience ranges from the semi-literate to the college prof, it's best if we write to a grade 4 or below. The lower the grade, the higher the reading comprehension, even among the super-literate mooks like you.

This morning I learned how to test my copy. It's simple. If you write in Word, check tools, then options, then hit the spelling and grammar tab and check readability statistics.

So of course I had to run my WIP through the grinder to see how it measured up. Understand that this is a fairly ambitious book that deals in some complex themes (or so I tell myself) and here's what I got:

Averages:

1.8 sentences per paragraph.
10.6 words per sentence.
4.2 characters per word.
1% passive sentences (yay!).
Reading ease 85.3
Grade level 3.9

That's right, I'm writing for slow 9-year-olds. So how about you? Run your mss through the Word reader and as always...

...talk to me.

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I didn't have time to go through the grammar check with my WIP, so I did it with one of my public safety trade articles. Upshot: I write at an 11th grade level. I have no idea what that means for my readers!

On the other hand, a short story I just submitted was written at a 2nd grade level. Hmm...
Okie doke, this is for the first sixteen pages of my wip--

Averages:

3.3 sentences per paragraph
12.7 words per sentence
4.2 characters per word
2% passive sentences
Reading ease 82.1
Grade level 4.9

Hmm. Now I think I'll go see what my other manuscripts run. Sigh. One more way to waste time ;-)
Warning, Will Robinson!! Time drain dead ahead.
Well, my books all came out pretty consistently in the same range. On first thought, the Grade level surprised me, but on second thought it made more sense. We're taught to do away with the flowery language and just go with the words that get the point across without sending the reader running for the dictionary every other sentence. Obviously, we are all doing our jobs properly, then. :-)
Interesting exercise. Just out of curiosity I tried this with the opening scene from Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (which he considered his best novel, though I much prefer the Maltese Falcon). His numbers:

2.9 sentences per paragraph.
11.7 words per sentence
4.2 characters per word
0% passive sentences
Reading ease 84%
Grade level 4.4

Quite similar to your numbers, David, although when Hammett was writing there were plenty of adults who actually hadn't gone beyond grade 4 and precious few college grads.

My numbers based on the opening 5,000 words of my WIP make me seem positively recondite by comparison...

2.6 sentences per paragraph
10.3 words per sentence
4.5 characters per word
1% passive sentences (Damn that Hammett!)
69.1 reading ease
6.1 grade level (And this despite my protagonist being a Yale-educated writer!)
FYI: Here's something interesting I found on the reading ease scale: Reader's Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine scores about 52, and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s.
Oh, where did the time go? Why didn't I heed Jordan's warning?

Damn you, David T!
He's sucked you in with another time vortex game, Eric. Back away from the computer. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Nice hat.
2.9 sentences per paragraph.
10.3 words per sentence.
4.2 characters per word.
3% passive sentences (whoops!).
Reading ease 88.7
Grade level 3.4

I'm guessing David's WIP has more dialogue than mine. Must watch my passive sentences though.

Another fun function is AutoSummarize. Try setting it to 10 sentences and make sure it creates the summary in a new document. Here's my result below. I can already tell I'm going to have Jules blinking, nodding, widening his eyes, turning around, and generally twitching all through the novel.

***

Jules nods.

Jules nods. Jules nods. “Jules!” “Jules.”

“Jules.”

“Jules?”

Jules. “Jules? Jules?”
Okay, I didn't have time to go through my whole WIP, either, so I checked a 208-word opening for a thriller that I wrote recently. This is very eye opening:

2.2 sentences per paragraph
6.5 words per sentence
4.4 characters per word
7% passive sentences
Reading ease 83.4
grade level 3.2

But they don't count curse words or dead bodies. My grade level would go up immensely if they counted that.
Okay. I'm going to look really stupid here, but...once you've set the options, where ARE the"readability stats"?
I had somebody show me twice, so don't feel bad. Once you click on the spelling and grammar options, a checklist of all these other items should open and near the bottom, in the grammar section, there's a check box for "readability stats." It'll run you through spell check first, but at the end of it (I just hit "ignore all" until my finger falls off) you'll get these stats.

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