My boss told me to write something on the third-grade level yesterday. Curious what level I normally write on, I found this readability index tool.

Depending on whose algorithm you use, I typically write on the 5th-7th grade level.

I was trained to write on the 6th grade level–most daily newspapers target that grade level–so after all these years, I’m pretty much on target. I write on complex enough subject matter that I don’t need my readers to be stumbling over sentence structure and words of the day to figure out what I’m talking about.

That’s my beef with some security magazines. They have useful information, but I struggle so much to read the text that I find it hard to figure out what they’re talking about. The stuff would be hard to read and understand if they were talking about how to change a light bulb, but when you add the complexity of the subject matter, I need a nap by the time I’m done. It’s not complex sentence structure and use of uncommon words that make you sound smart–your subject matter does.

Engineers can be outstanding writers if they use the right mindset. A good engineer doesn’t add any extra complexity to a machine, because extra complexity just adds parts that can break, and make the machine harder to maintain. That’s exactly the mindset a good writer needs.

Readability indices are a good tool. Use them.