I don’t know about comprehension rates, but I look forward to learning.

Comprehension rate – no idea, but looks as though it’s related to the sort of ‘reading ages’ of, for example, newspaper articles.

Okay, the definition of the term “comprehension rate” that I’m about to share with you, is an excellent measure that you stay mindful of when you are writing. (70%.) I’ve just performed a Google search for the definition of  comprehension rate and I’ve discovered a curious thing. (82%.) Predominantly, the results from the search tend to mention “speed reading.” (89%.) This is not the definition that I am looking for! (90%.)

The comprehension rate that I’m referring to, is the percentage of people who comprehend a sentence after reading it just once. (78%.)

You have probably noticed the various percentages that I’ve scattered through the text above? (86%.) And the one just now? (95%.) I’ll stop dispensing them now. (95%.) Okay now. (98%.) Erm … Now? (99%)  Grrr!


The percentages represent rough calculations of the number of people out of one hundred who comprehend a sentence after they have read it just once. Those who didn’t comprehend it the first time, well they’re the people who have to reread it. Just to make sure that you are with me: if 75% of people comprehend a sentence after reading it the first time, the other 25% didn’t.

Out of those 25% who didn’t comprehend the sentence, how many of them didn’t bother to go back and read it again? I don’t know, but from what I know of human nature, I’d say quite a few. This is even more true when the culprits are reading off of a computer screen, though who really is the culprit of this crime?

Well, let’s just say that it is up to the writer to try to keep the average comprehension rate of sentences higher rather than lower.

How to Keep Your Sentences Comprehension Rate high.

The comprehension rate has a rough correlation to the number of words in a sentence. If a sentence has twenty words in it, it means that twenty people out of one hundred failed to comprehend it the first time – giving that sentence an 80% comprehension rate. (Eighty people got it.)

That’s not to say that you should keep the word count of a sentence to (say) ten words. It is to say that you should vary the length of your sentences to keep the majority of them in a higher comprehension rate bracket. You could have longer sentences bracketed by two shorter ones. There is also other punctuation to take into account, such as the humble comma or hyphen. If your longer sentence had a one of these, or a semi-colon maybe, then it can be forgiven somewhat for being longer – it’s your call.

There are other (rough) little markers that I’ll go over with you to facilitate the comprehension of your writing at another time. If you have rough measures or markers in the back of your mind when you are writing your first draft, it makes sense that you will have less editing to do when you come to write your second one. (Damn, I just lost 39-ish% of you … )

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