Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a written text. – Wikipedia
Readability is obviously important for any kind of scholarly communication, from writing papers to blog posts. I have written about scientific writing before (e.g. Scientific writers can help publish good papers, Books about Science Writing, Do you know the Flesch score of your papers?), and writing scholarly content that is understandable is something that can be taught and learned.
Something simple that can help is providing feedback in the form of readability scores, generated automatically with formulas that for example use the average sentence length (ASL) and average number of syllables per word (ASW), as in the Flesch Reading Ease score first published in 1948:
206.835 - 1.015 x ASL - 84.6 x ASW
The score can be anywhere between 0 and 100, with a higher scores meaning better readability.
|90-100||very easy to read, easily understood by an average 11-year-old student|
|80-90||easy to read|
|70-80||fairly easy to read|
|60-70||easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students|
|50-60||fairly difficult to read|
|30-50||difficult to read, best understood by college graduates|
|0-30||very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates|
The Flesch Reading Ease score has been researched extensively, with a particular influence on journalism, showing that higher scores can increase readership.
I will do a more systematic analysis at some point (the numbers are in our database index), for now I will highlight the Front Matter posts with the highest and lowest readability scores:
Most posts have a score between 30 and 50, lower than most newspapers and novels, but higher than highly specialized scientific papers. Blog posts that have a score much higher or lower are particularly interesting, as we might learn something that can improve our writing. But take the readability score with a grain of salt, as other factors not really in our control might influence the score.
P.S. This post has a readability score of 52.4.
In 1998 Tim Berners-Lee coined the term cool URIs (1998), that is URIs that don’t change. We know that URLs referenced in the scholarly literature are often not cool, leading to link rot (Klein et al., 2014) and making it hard or impossible to find the referenced resource.Cool URIs are, ...
Example article with embedded code and data
In October I published an essay on Article-Level Metrics (ALM) in PLOS Biology (Fenner, 2013). The essay is a good introduction into Article-Level Metrics, and I am proud that it is part of the Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection. Like all PLOS content, ...
Citeproc YAML for bibliographies
The standard local file formats for bibliographic data are probably bibtex and RIS. They have been around for a long time, and are supported by all reference managers and many other tools and services. Unfortunately these formats are far from perfect:neither ...