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Microsoft Word’s Readability and AutoSummarizing Features


Microsoft Word has some cool tools to use with dyslexic or struggling readers, but the features are a bit tricky to find in the later versions of MS Word. This post is going to explain how to find and use Word’s Flesh Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level readability formulas for scanned or written documents. I’m also going to show you Word’s cool AutoSummarize feature where you can summarize a text in four different formats depending on how much you of the original text your want summarized. 

Opinions vary on the suitability and validity of readability formulas, and there are quite a few to choose from:

1. Rudolph Flesch’s Reading Ease Formula
2. Flesch’s Grade Level
3. J. Peter Kinkaid’s Flesch-Kinkaid Index
4. Robert Gunning’s Fog Index
5. The SMOG Readability Formula
6. Fry’s Readability Graph
7. New Dale-Chall formula
8. Powers-Sumner-Kear Readability Formula;
9. FORCAST readability formula
10. Spache readability formula

And let’s not forget the Lexile Framework for Reading by Metametrix, which is a bit more complex than the preceding formulas.

Readability simply means the level at which a reader can comfortably read a passage. Granted, you can test a sonnet written by Shakespeare using a readability formula, and very well get a 4th grade readability score. So use caution when using readability formulas! I find them to be a great resource most of the time, and they can place passages in a ball park range that may surprise you and help you as a teacher.

In general, Word 2007 does not automatically do a readability scan on documents so you have to add the feature into the normal spell check tool.

Here are the steps:

    1. Click on the round MS Word icon located in the upper left hand corner of a document.
    2. Click on Word Options at the very bottom.
    3. Click on Proofing on the left hand side.
    4. In the heading that reads “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” click on the box for “Show Readability Statistics”.
    5. Go ahead and do a spell check on a document. You will then end up with a pop up box showing the Flesch Kindcaide Grade Readability at the bottom of the box with a bunch of other statistics.

Next is the AutoSummarize feature. I have used this feature for students who I knew would be overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of a magazine article or document. This can also be used as well with a textbook chapter or section, scanned in Word and then auto summarized to eliminate the extra bulk, yet maintaining the essence of the main points. You have four choices for the types of summaries you want:

    1. Highlighting key points, but maintaining the original document
    2. Summarizing the entire document at the top of the page, with the original document below it.
    3. Creating a new document and placing the summary there.
    4. Hiding everything but the summary, without leaving the original document (so no new document–but you lose the original).

Then you have other options with this as well you can decide the percentage, or number of sentences, or number of words from original document you want to keep in the summary.

Your options are as follows:

      • 10 sentences
      • 20 sentences
      • 100 words or less
      • 200 words or less
      • 500 words or less
      • 25 percent
      • 50 percent
      • 75 percent

Now that you know the features, here’s how to add it to your commands.

    1. Click on the Word icon at the top left hand corner.
    2. Click on Word Options at the bottom.
    3. On the next screen, click on Customize on the left hand side.
    4. The next screen will show you a list of commands. Click where is says “Choose commands from” and select All Commands
    5. Scroll down until you find AutoSummarize Tools and select it. 
    6. Click the Add button so it adds it to your “Quick Access Toolbar” which is normally located at the upper left hand side of your Word document toolbar with the black background. 
    7. Voila! Click a document and then click on the AutoSummarize button to start experimenting! 

These two Word functions may seem like a lot of work, but if you become fluent in them, you can use the readability scales and the autosummarize features to create documents that are more suitable for your classroom. Sometimes it’s tough to find authentic writing in textbooks and using real life articles from online or paper magazines (like Times News for Kids etc.) can really spice up the classroom. And for your struggling readers, you can make these documents much easier to read.

Resources: by Brian Scott, 2011


About Ann Gavazzi

Reading specialist and English teacher with a particular interest in treatment of dyslexia. Also interested in education and education policy at large and current reading research. Owner of the Reading Innovations Center, a tutoring center that specializes in one-to-one tutoring for struggling readers and math students.


3 thoughts on “Microsoft Word’s Readability and AutoSummarizing Features

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    Posted by Bell | September 28, 2014, 7:40 pm


  1. Pingback: Write one sentence that summarizes each year of your life so far. « Jeremy Hixon Affiliate Programs and Business - September 16, 2011

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