Readability (and legibility)

While legibility is the ease with which type characters can be read and is a matter of typography and layout is the readability of texts about linguistic and content oriented issues.
 

Readability has in particular been studied in the psychology of reading. Library and Information Science (LIS) has primarily been interested in measures of readability in order to advice users in the selecting of texts. In this connection research has been made concerning "readability formulas" and "readability tests".
 

In Scandinavia is a system, "LIX", common. It was developed by the Swedish researcher C. H. Björnsson. Different methods have been used to make this system, including:

LIX is based on a measure of the length of sentences and the percentage of long words (here defined as words with more than six letters).


LIX= A/B + (C x 100)/A, where
A= Number of words
B= Number of periods (defined by period, colon or capital first letter)
C= Number of long words (More than 6 letters)

 

Readability formulas are partly language specific, and in the English speaking world are other formulas common, for example, "Flesch readability test".

 

Bram (1977) is about the readability of scientific and technical documents, which have not been much considered in ordinary readability tests. Five issues are examined:

 

"(1) familiarity with subject matter;

(2) understanding of vocabulary;

(3) poorly constructed sentences;

(4) overloaded sentences;

(5) understanding of subject matter".

 

Bram finds that factor 5 is the most essential, followed by factor 3-4. Factor 1-2 has, however, only small impact on readability. Bram finds that these results questions the validity of common readability tests and he proposes new ideas in order to improve communication.

 

 


Literature:

 

Björnsson, C. H. (1971). Læsbarhed. København: Gad.
 

Bram, V. A. (1977). Factors affecting the readability of scientific and engineering texts. Communicator of Scientific and Technical Information, (33), 3-5.
 

Clark, A. K. (1975). Readability in technical writing - principles and procedures. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications PC18 (2), June 75, 67-70.
 

Coupland, N. (1978). Is readability real? Communicator of Scientific and Technical Information, (35), 15-17.
 

Dronberger, G. B. & Kowitz, G. T. (1975). Abstract readability as a factor in information systems. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 26(2), 108-111.
 

Jakobsen, G. (1976). Dansk lix 70. Udarbejdet af det af Direktoratet for folkeskolen og seminarierne nedsatte lix-udvalg. Nyt oplag. Dragør: Læsepædagogen, 1976. (Særtryk af Læsepædagogen; 1. udgave 1971).
 

Jakobsen, G. (1976). Dansk lix 75. Udarbejdet af Lix-udvalget. Dragør: Læsepædagogen, 1976. 35 sider. (Særtryk af Læsepædagogen 1976, nr. 2). (Videreførelse af rapporten: Dansk Lix 70).
 

King, R. (1976). A comparison of the readability of abstracts with their source documents. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 27(2), 118-121.
 

Klare, G. R. (1963). The Measurement of Readability. Ames, Iowa, USA.: Iowa State University Press.
 

Lixede bøger 1988. Ballerup: Bibliotekscentralens Forlag, 1989. (Med forord om lix).
 

Mayes, P. B. (1978). Brief communications: a comparison of the readability of synopses and original articles for Engineering Synopses. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 29(6), 312-313.
 

Mayes, P. B. (1979). Checking the style by numbers. Library Association Record, 81(4), 177.
 

Nordentoft, M. (1981). Avisreportager målt ved cloze-tests: om reportagers læsesværhed, og deres anvendelse i folkeskolen: om cloze-testens scorings­metoder: med en ekskurs om lix: rapport. København: Institut for dansk sprog og litteratur, Danmarks lærerhøjskole.
 

Peterson, L. & Coniglio, J. W. (1987). Readability of selected academic library guides. RQ, 27(2), 233-239.
 

Richardson, J. V. (1977). Readability and readership of journals in library science. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 3(1), 20-22.
 

Seaton, J. (1975). Readability tests for UK professional journals. Journal of Librarianship, 7(2), 69-83.
 

Shaw, D. (1989). Readability of documentation for end user searchers. Online Review, 13(1), 3-8. 
 

Smith, P. K. (1985). Database support documentation-good and not so good. National Online Meeting proceedings 1985: New York, April 30-May 2 1985. Compiled by Martha E. Williams and Thomas H. Hogan. Medford, New Jersey, Learned Information Inc. Pp. 421-425.
 

Tefki, C. (1987). Readability formulas: an overview. Journal of Documentation, 43(3), 261-273.
 

 

See also: Reading
 

 

Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 23-05-2006

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to be edited:


LIX-skalaen
Lixværdi Sværhedsgrad Typiske eksempler
20 30 40 50 60 80 Meget let Let Middelsvær Svær Meget svær Særdeles svær Populær- videnskab Alm faglitteratur Nogle lovtekster


Lix anvendes f.eks. i bogvalgsarbejde (jfr. Lixede bøger 1988). 

 Tefki (1987). Bl.a. redegøres for forskellen imellem 'readability' og 'legibility' og for oprindelsen og udviklingen af læsbarhedsindekser. De mest kendte indekser for engelsksproget materiale beskrives og deres anvendelse belyses.

Peterson (1987) påpeger, at de fleste læsbarhedsindeks koncentrerer sig om sætnings- og ordlængder, men at andre forhold, såsom dårlig redigering og brug af ordgyderi og jargon ofte bidrager unødvendigt til f.eks. biblioteksførerers kompleksitet.

Dronberger & Kowitz (1975); King (1976) og Mayes (1978) beskæftiger sig specielt med læsbarheden af *abstracts og synopser. Shaw (1989) og Smith (1985) beskæftiger sig med læsbarheden af brugermanualer og databasedokumentation.

Begrebet læsbarhed anvendes også i andre betydninger. Bl.a. anvender man udtrykket "maskinlæsbar" om data, der befinder sig på *medier i en form, der kan behandles af data­maskiner. (machine-readable)