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Region 4 News June 21st, 2024
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Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) Formula for Calculating Readability

Posted in: #CC/Academic List, #Health Interest List, #Health Sciences List, #Public/K-12 List, All Members

Health literacy is an important concept for the health and helping professions. Many times, individuals who may have high literacy skills may not have high health literacy skills. For this reason, it is important to be sure individuals understand the health information being presented to them.   

There are several formulas writers and editors can use to assess the readability of materials. The most common and considered the “gold standard” assessment is called the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) formula. For more information about this formula and how to calculate the measure please see the links bellow. This formula allows writers and editors to assess the readability of the material being presented. Many times, health information is presented at a 12th grade or above reading level. This can be disconcerting considering the average reading level in the United States is between the 6th and 8th grade. If writers and editors use this formula to develop health materials it can help individuals understand the health information they are receiving.  

It should be noted that there are other readability formulas and tests. One such formula on most modern word possessing programs is the Flesh-Kinkade Grade Level Index. This index assigns a reading level to the work. While there is criticism about this formula underestimating reading level, it is a good tool to use to have a ballpark of what the reading level is.

Hopefully the resources provided will help you as a health information professional develop and provide reading level appropriate materials to your constituencies.    




David M Brown holds a Doctor of Education with a specialization in health education from Teachers College Columbia University. He also holds a Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. Additionally, he has two Masters of Arts Degrees from Columbia University one in computers and education and another in health education. He is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. 

Dr. Brown has been involved in training public health professionals for the last 15 years, teaching and supervising research in health education and public health at a number of universities in both the United States and abroad.  He has served on the board of directors for the Society for Public Health Education.  He currently serves on the Divisional Board for the Certification of Health Education Specialists with The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing Inc. He has also served on several editorial boards related to health education and promotion. 




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