Friday, May 03, 2013

Flesch-Kincaid and Bible versions

Every now and then I see the Flesch Reading Ease and/or the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests referenced in comparing different versions of the Bible -- someone usually trying to make the point that their version of the Bible is easier to read. 

I sort of randomly* chose the second epistle of John to plug in to the Flesch-Kincaid Reading tests (using Microsoft Word). Here are my findings for 4 Bible versions.

New International Version
Words 291
Sentences 15
Passive Sentences 6%
Flesch Reading Ease 82.2
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2

King James Version
Words 298
Sentences 15
Passive Sentences 0%
Flesch Reading Ease 81.4
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2

New American Standard Version
Words 316
Sentences 12
Passive Sentences 8%
Flesch Reading Ease 82.3
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.6

Holman Christian Standard Version
Words 309
Sentences 15
Passive Sentences 0%
Flesch Reading Ease 83.5
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.1

The Flesch Reading Ease test rates text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score means the easier it is to understand the document. 

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test rates text on a U.S. school grade level. A score of 8.0 would mean that an eighth grader can understand the document.

All four Bible versions that I picked rated at sixth grade level for the epistle of 2 John. There was very little difference, with the New American Standard rating the hardest and the Holman Christian Standard rating the easiest.

The Flesch-Kincaid scale is a measure of sentence length/words-per-sentence, word length/syllables-per-word only. It does not measure vocabulary. Vocabulary and sentence structure, which Flesch-Kincaid does not measure, can change the readability of a document. The Flesch-Kincaid tests actually tell us very little about comparing the readability of various Bible versions.

* I picked this book because it is one of the shortest in the Bible and I knew it would be easy to copy and prep (check for errors and remove verse numbers).

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