More than one of my beta readers feels a certain WIP of mine has too many words that need looking up. Much as I'd like to assume they just have unusually small vocabularies, it's more likely I've overestimated the average reader. Ideally I'd copy-paste the whole thing into this, which highlights any word not in English's most common thousand, but since 8-year-olds average a 10,000-word vocabulary I think that's too restrictive, especially since my intended readership is adult. Is there a similar option with a larger whitelist? Or if I shortlist possibly obscure words for reconsideration, is there a way to tell how well a word is known?

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    I am taking it from your question that the words in question are not jargon related? Jun 6, 2018 at 7:13
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    Make them look stuff up. I've added plenty of words to my vocabulary from books. If it's the right word, it's the right word. Don't dumb down your prose. Jun 6, 2018 at 9:53
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    @LaurenIpsum Part of me wants to agree with you. The other part suspects I should detect these words so I can double-check whether they are the right word for the context, or whether I've made things unnecessarily complicated.
    – J.G.
    Jun 6, 2018 at 10:32
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    @J.G. Valid point. Being sesquipedalian for the singular pleasure of authorial euphony doesn't necessarily lend itself to increased reader comprehension. Jun 6, 2018 at 11:19
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    @LaurenIpsum Is it good or bad that I can actually read that without looking anything up?
    – Ash
    Jun 6, 2018 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


I found a website that features both a readability analyzer and, perhaps more helpful to you in this case, a difficult & extraneous word finder.

The former analyses and estimates the general 'readability of a passage of text using the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease, Gunning Fog Index, Kincaide Grade Level, SMOG formula and Dale–Chall Score and Fry Reading Graph metrics. The Analyzer works best with plain text.'

The latter 'can be used to explore vocabulary. It identifies rare words, and long polysyllabic words with more than three syllables which may be harder for an audience to understand. The Difficult and Extraneous Word finder also finds extraneous words, such as adverbs and double hedge words which may make a sentence needlessly longer.'

Hope this helps.

  • Thanks for your answer. I knew someone would mention things like Flesch-Kincaid, which as I understand tell you what grade of schoolchildren could read something. Why adults are targeted with anything below 12th grade I've no idea.
    – J.G.
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:17
  • @J.G. One of the scales takes the analysis up to college level, which I suppose is about how high you're going to get for normal people. If that don't appeal, try the other one - like I said: the difficult & extraneous word finder is perhaps more helpful to you in this case.
    – robertcday
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:24
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    It probably will be, yes. I've experimented with things like FK before, discovering my work is 5th-grade or something similarly easy-sounding. But that's probably because it judges by sentence length instead of whether a very rare word came up.
    – J.G.
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:36
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    @J.G. If you anticipate people suggesting things you are already aware of and don't meet the case, you should list those things in the question itself rather than allow people to spend their time constructing answers about them.
    – Spagirl
    Jun 6, 2018 at 14:14
  • @Spagirl It's not that FK doesn't meet the case; it's that I'm unclear on whether/why they meet the case. Maybe there is a reason adults need their works to be no more demanding than a child's; I've just never seen it elucidated. In any case, anyone who mentions FK will also link to it, but a specific implementation's value varies with what other features it has. For what it's worth, I upvoted this answer because of its second link.
    – J.G.
    Jun 6, 2018 at 14:42

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