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For readability , the author is responsible for the legibility of the typesetter.

In addition to legibility, the structure of the content and the structure of texts, legibility is one of several criteria for text intelligibility . It is based on the linguistic design (including: word and sentence complexity, vocabulary ) and is therefore one of the criteria for how easy it is to read , understand and understand a text . “Readability” is often equated with “comprehensibility”.

In addition to legibility and comprehensibility, the reading process is also influenced by criteria that are not on the part of the text itself, but on the part of the reader, such as the language skills , the thematic (specialist) knowledge and interests of the reader and his concentration . Therefore, one and the same text can be completely incomprehensible to someone and very easy to understand for another person. Unsuitable font sizes can also make things difficult. B. with small computers or e-books .

Readability and comprehensibility criteria

Recognizability - typography

The recognizability of a text is determined by its medium ( paper or screen ) and the presentation. The legibility of a text is influenced, for example, by the font used , font size and color, letter and word spaces, line length and line spacing or word separations. It can be measured, among other things, by the speed at which a text can be read. The ability to recognize and differentiate between the individual characters plays a decisive role.

Unfortunately, there are hardly any scientific studies on this topic, but in the long history of typography some rules based on experience or tradition have emerged that are widely recognized today.

Serif fonts are considered to be more legible for running texts. An exception to this should be novice readers who are said to be irritated by serifs . There is also a relationship between font size and font family: very large types, such as those used in headlines, billboards, etc., are usually sans serif, and serif fonts are usually chosen for normal-sized continuous text. Very small fonts, on the other hand, can be better deciphered according to current typographic theory if the serifs are omitted.

Fonts for electronic displays and screens with their relatively coarse pixel rasters are special cases : Here, the types have to be optimized in favor of legibility for the intended medium, which is hardly possible with very small serif fonts. For this reason, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) recommends using sans serif fonts for barrier-free websites .

If the actual text is not yet available in the typographical design of publications , the legibility of the general layout can also be assessed with the help of dummy text .

Legibility - sentence structure and language style

The mean word length (number of syllables per word), sentence length (number of words per sentence), the position of partial sentences and the proportion of rare words and foreign words have a strong influence on legibility and thus also on comprehensibility overall .

For English texts, and later also for other languages, various formulas were proposed to determine readability ( readability index ). B. Syllables and sentence lengths are counted. The calculated value expresses z. For example, the age or grade level from which a child should understand the text, or is just a key figure that should make different texts more or less comparable.

In addition, the type of presentation, logical reasoning, expression - but also the prior knowledge of the reader - play a role.

Traceability - Complexity

The comprehensibility of a text relates to how quickly the meaning of the message is revealed to the reader .

Readability and errors

Errors reduce readability. This applies to different types of errors , such as spelling and grammar errors or errors in content. However, thanks to the redundancy of the text, they can often be compensated for while reading. This can go so far that, strictly speaking, a text says the opposite of what it means (for example through incorrect use of negation), but is still correctly understood. Frequent mistakes can reduce readability and attention to a text in addition to reading speed . Ambiguous texts can easily lead to misinterpretation. Ambiguity can also arise, for example, from the lack of or incorrect use of punctuation marks .

1996 spelling reform

The aim of the 1996 reform of German spelling was to make writing easier or to reduce the error rate, but not to make it easier to read and understand texts. According to the unanimous opinion (see the section on procedures to improve readability ), the liberalized setting of commas in particular makes sentences more difficult to read or even demonstrably makes texts that can be misunderstood or only understandable in a wider context. The same applies to uppercase and lowercase letters as well as the separate and combined letters and the legalization of the so-called folk etymology: With the same spelling of different terms, in some cases differences in meaning can become invisible or only become apparent from the context of the text when you read them further.

Other contents of the reform, for example B. Heyseschen instead of Adelung's Eszett spelling or the un-Germanization of foreign words, there are different opinions or no objective statements.

Process to increase readability

The reader scan process has been used in journalism since 2005 to increase the readability of print texts. The procedure enables line-by-line verification of where a representative selected readership dropped out of the articles in newspapers and magazines. The procedure thus offers an empirical basis for assessing the legibility of published texts. By comparing the exit points with the criteria of comprehensibility, the exit behavior of the readership can be explained. In software technology , readability is increased by means of rules for the formulation and formatting of source texts and their documentation in order to guarantee their maintainability .

Wolf Schneider has long been giving practical instructions for journalists, some of which are based on the findings of legibility research.

See also


  • Karl-Heinz Best : Are word and sentence length useful criteria for the legibility of texts? In: Sigurd Wichter , Albert Busch, (Ed.): Knowledge transfer - success control and feedback from practice . Lang, Frankfurt / M. u. a. 2006, ISBN 3-631-53671-2 , pp. 21-31.
  • Groeben, Norbert: Reader Psychology: Text Understanding - Text Understanding. Aschendorff, Münster 1982, ISBN 3-402-04298-3 .
  • Jaan Mikk: Textbook: Research and Writing. Peter Lang, Frankfurt / M. u. a. 2000, ISBN 3-631-36335-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: readability  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wolf Schneider: German for life. What the school forgot to teach . 13th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2004, ISBN 3-499-19695-6 .