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Microsoft Word: Synonyms and Readability Statistics

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Computer(s), Microsoft Word, Projector (optional)

Activity Description

In this activity, students will use Microsoft Word's Readability Statistics and synonyms to find more sophisticated vocabulary and thus improve their writing.


  1. Have students write a paragraph about any class theme or topic, for example an autobiography, biography, typical day, an interesting life event, etc.
  2. Scaffold the lesson so that the writing activity fits with a thematic unit or with a grammar structure you are teaching.
  3. Collect hand-written paragraphs and provide feedback on format, content (organization), and mechanics (grammar, spelling, etc.).
  4. Make sure that the computers students will use to type their paragraphs have Microsoft Office Word installed and check which version is installed.
  5. Download the Example Document (above) titled Microsoft Word Readability Statistics and Synonyms and print a copy for each student or if you will be demonstrating the steps in a computer lab, just print a copy for yourself.


  1. Show students how to set up the Word software to show the Readability Statistics. Use the instructions in Example Document (above) titled Microsoft Word Readability Statistics and Synonyms.
  2. Have students type their paragraphs in MS Word. Then show students how to check their paragraphs for Spelling and Grammar mistakes. (To spell check select the Review tab and look for Spelling & Grammar in the Proofing section, or by pressing the F7 key on the keyboard.) After the spell check is complete, the readability statistics will be displayed (if this option was correctly turned on per the Example Document instructions).
  3. Explain to students what the statistics mean (which include word count, sentence count, average sentences per paragraph, average words per sentence, percentage of passive sentences, and Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level). You may choose to ask students to record their readability statistics, particularly grade level, for the first draft. Optionally, tell students to revise and check spelling and grammar again until their writing reaches a given grade level.
  4. Follow the steps in the second part of the Example Document titled Microsoft Word Readability Statistics and Synonyms for replacing low-level words with more academic words.

Teacher Tips

  • Note: These directions are for a PC. The steps may differ for a Macintosh computer. You may want to have the readability statistics option turned on before students come to the computer lab in order to save time. However, explaining to them how to turn on the readability statistics is a good exercise in listening and following directions.

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  • A valuable follow-up activity is to have students provide you with two or more drafts of a word-processed paragraph, the first draft with their own writing and the second draft after revisions were made to increase the readability statistics. Show how the word choices may (or may not) be correct and how they added sophistication to the writing.
  • You can also use the Web site Readability-Score┬áto measure the readability of not only text in a document, but also the text on a given Web page.



  • Intermediate Low
  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced


Basic Communication

  • (0.1) Communicate in interpersonal interactions
  • (0.2) Communicate regarding personal information

Basic Communication

  • (7.2) Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
  • (7.7) Demonstrate the ability to use information and communication technology
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.