Readability testing with ice cream

ice cream readability and a child delighting when eating an ice cream cone Reading Time: 2 minutes

When specialised vocabulary exceeds a readability score of Grade 8, then replace it with something that doesn’t. I found the ideal phrase is, “ice cream”.

What is readability?

The accessibility and usability of your written content depends on its readability. That is, whether your audience can read and understand your text copy. 

Online tools like the can guide you on the readability of your text copy. The Hemingway Editor is a free tool to guide readability. It judges the reading “grade” level of your text using the Automated Readability Index. You can read about reading grades on Wikipedia.

Among its useful measures is the readability grade. This “scores” readability from Grade 0 to Post Graduate. It reports the school grade a reader must achieve to read and understand your content. The grade you write to depends on the context and scenarios of your readers. Our industry recommends writing to Grade 8 or less when we write for an inclusive audience.

A screen grab of the Hemingway App text editor.
screen grab of the Hemingway App's text editor

The problem

Authors can struggle to write technical and educational content to Grade 8 or below. Specialised vocabulary, terminology, and other complexities affect readability scoring.

A solution

In the following table, the Hemingway App scores a passage’s readability as Grade 15. When revised using “ice cream”, its readability is reduced to Grade 7. (For fun, try updating the previous paragraph using “ice cream”.)

Revising a specialised vocabulary using ice cream.
Version Text copy Reading Grade
Before revision The following settings apply only to our legacy configuration verification methods. They are present in templates and in the API’s ConfigurationParameter object. To manage individual workflows, we recommend using our Configuration Parameter Verifications. Grade 15 and 33 words.
After revision The following settings apply only to our legacy ice cream methods. They are present in templates and in the API’s ice cream object. To manage individual workflows, we recommend using our ice cream. Grade 7 and 33 words.


  • It is tempting to overuse this technique. It is not a substitute for lazy vocabulary.
  • Not all writing needs a reading level of Grade 8 or less. Write for your audience.
  • Effective writing needs a great readability score coupled with writing for UX strategies
  • Always remove the ice cream from legalese. Lawyers don’t like ice cream.

Who invented ice cream?

I didn’t invent ice cream. Legend has it that the Chinese did. No, I only discovered this writing technique.

Authors know that terminology can be technical or based on global regulations. Measured in isolation, our content’s reading grade can be higher than we aim to achieve. Even then, our content’s structure shouldn’t exceed Grade 8. I needed a Grade 0 phrase to replace Post Graduate terms. I tested the childhood icon, “ice cream” across a range of content genre and complexity. It works!

The featured ice cream image is from the article, 10 Surprising Benefits of Eating Ice Cream by Kanksha Rima.

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