How easy to read is Jane Austen?

Sparkling with wit, Jane Austen's graceful style is even more reader-friendly than the language of newspapers.

So are the first chapters of literary classics like David Copperfield and Sons and Lovers. They are all easier to read than newspapers.

That's what I found in a readability test that looked at the number of words in a sentence and whether the words were long or short.

You can check the test results for newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker and The Economist in my previous post.

How Easy to Read is Jane Austen?

Click on the slideshow to see the readability scores for the first chapters of:

  • Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice,
  • Thackeray's Vanity Fair,
  • Dickens' David Copperfield,
  • George Eliot's Middlemarch,
  • Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd,
  • Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim,
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles,
  • Kipling's Kim,
  • EM Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread, and
  • DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers.

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How easy to read are our newspapers?

Is the English language being "dumbed down" as it goes global? Not necessarily. Newspapers and magazines have always tried to be reader-friendly, to their particular readers, at least. So an article by HL Mencken, a famous American journalist from the early 20th century, contains fewer long words than a New York Times column by William Safire, who began his career in the mid-1950s.

But first let's look at some newspapers and magazines. This is how The Straits Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker and The Economist fared in the reading test.

How easy to read are our newspapers?

You can calculate the readability of any website by typing in the URL on this page:

It breaks down the words by the number of syllables, shows the average number of words in a sentence, and gives the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Gunning Fog Index score. The higher the reading ease score, the easier it is to read, and the higher the "fog index" score, the harder it is to understand. You can see more on the tests on the Juicy Studio page and in Wikipedia.

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