10 Years of Making Apps

All About Readability

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I like it simple. Very simple. Very much. And I believe that simplicity has nothing to do with magic and that it can be achieved. It’s my deepest belief that it simply :–) has something to do with one’s attitude.

This belief and attitude is, hopefully, visible in my Apps and I always strive for the same simplicity in all other parts of my life. This, of course, also applies to language. Or better, the use of language – in particular, the use of words.

Or the other way round: not to use words. Or: not that many and the better ones. And in most cases the better words are the simpler words. Often simple can also be replaced with shorter. For sentences, at least, this is almost always true.

That’s why I prefer the English language over the German – even though I suck at it. But have you ever looked at a German description on a box? From your smartphone or printer, for example? I guess that says it all. That’s also one of the reasons why localizing Apps into German is no fun at all.

BTW – I still think one of the most important things that set Steve apart from so many others was his skill with words. Few words. Simple words. Combined with the right speed, rhythm and length.

As important as that is for the spoken word – it’s even more important for the written word simply because there is, in almost every case, no chance at all to ask the author directly to rephrase it.

For some of us this comes naturally – but most of us have to practice it. And practice it. And then to practice it again.

It all starts with the attitude. And the environment. That’s why we always should use the most simple tool possible. A typewriter is something simple. But it really has some annoying downsides. And I’m not only talking about the weight here. Fortunately, there are solutions available in our digital age.

Free, for example. The child of the first distraction free text only writing tool with paragraph highlighting, background patterns to better work with glossy screens and a Markdown enabled preview and export. The first with extra custom made fonts, in depth statistics and word frequency count. Yes, I’m talking about myTexts.

While such a simple statistics is essential – those bare figures can’t help you with improving your writing. That’s why I added an extra word frequency count. At least it helps you to avoid using the same words over and over again and you can also see their length etc.

But that’s, of course, not enough.

An App will never replace a good teacher, lots of reading – yes, that’s the only way to become a better writer: by reading – and practicing by writing and writing and writing. But a good App should be able to help.

And that’s why I’m very happy – and a little bit proud – to announce that the latest versions of Free and Write now feature a new addition to the already extensive statistics section:

Readability

Even words and their usage is nothing else than boring math. And when there’s something that can be added up and divided and whatnot, human beings with too much time will do that and come up with lots of formulas:

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease
Flesch Kincaid Grade Level
Gunning Fog Index
Coleman Liau Index
SMOG Index
Automated Readability Index

Wikipedia Article on Readability

If you mistake them as the Holy Grail, or a kind of panacea, you’re clearly doing something wrong. In the end, words and language still have more to do with feelings, rhythm and expression – but using those formulas as a guide and further tool isn’t such a bad idea.

And in a few days now you can do that with Free and Write .

In addition, I’ve also added a word search with visual feedback, so you can see how often you’ve used a word, where they are in your text and their distance from each other…

BTW: This text has a Readability Index of 4.9 and scores 81.5 in Reading Ease. Tomorrow, after my English teacher has edited it, it will surely be even easier to read.

Well, actually the English got better – but the numbers almost staid the same :–)