Archive for May, 2009

What Grade Level are Your Patient Education Materials?

May 29, 2009


The average adult in the United States reads at an eighth-grade level yet most patient education materials are written on a high-school or college reading level. It is unlikely patients will admit the information is “over their heads.”  It therefore important to determine reading levels of patient education materials.

In 1969, G. Harry McLaughlin developed the popular SMOG Readability Formula.  (SMOG stands for “Simple Measure of Gobbledygook.”)  Before computers, people would have to determine by hand (or with a calculator), the actual grade level of the materials.  Thanks to computers, it is now very easy!  Put your information into this website and within seconds you will have important data to determine readability level.  (In addition to SMOG, this website has other formulas to determine readability levels.)

With materials written at the appropriate grade levels, patients are more likely to review the information and follow instructions.  It’s all about patient safety.


Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.  To book one of his high-content credit-hour-approved keynote speeches or training programs, visit or call: or call 1-800-677-3256