ATOS & Reading Difficulty Levels: What Level Is Your Work?

Something to watch for when you’re writing for a specific age group is the difficulty level of your writing. Having a great plot and characters that a 6th grader would love isn’t going to do you much good when it’s written at a 12th grade reading level (or a 3rd grade reading level). But how do you know how hard your writing is? (Besides guessing)

One way to check is to use a free site that scores your writing. I prefer the ATOS scale, and if you look up YA on wikipedia, you’ll see that the age groups are ranked by this scale.

To check your own works, simply paste a section into the ATOS Analyzer or upload a document, and after a bit of processing, the analyzer will tell you not only your overall score but also details that affect your score like average word length, sentence length, and vocabulary level. Under that score, there will also be a chart where you can compare your score to the reading levels for grades 1-12 to see where it falls. This article, for instance, has an ATOS score of 8.2 (between low and average for 7th grade).

If you want to raise or lower your score, you can adjust your vocabulary and/or sentence structure and try again. I’ve also found it useful as hard data if you don’t want to make your writing any easier than it already is (“according to my ATOS score, it already is at a 6th grade level…”).

Really, this is a very easy-to-use and convenient tool, so if you have to track the difficulty of your writing at all, you might want to bookmark the site. Couldn’t hurt, right?

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