Blog RSS Feed

Evaluating Bible Reading Levels with Google

Google recently introduced a “Reading Level” feature on their Advanced Search page that allows you to see the distribution of reading levels for a query.

If we constrain a search to Bible Gateway and restrict URLs to individual translations, we get a decent picture of how English translations stack up in terms of reading levels:

According to this methodology, the Amplified Bible is the hardest to read (probably because its nature is to have long sentences), and the NIrV is the easiest.

Caveats abound:

  1. URLs don’t have a 1:1 correspondence to passages, so some passages get counted twice while others don’t get counted at all.
  2. Google doesn’t publish its criteria for what constitutes different reading levels.
  3. These numbers are probably best thought of in relative, rather than absolute, terms.
  4. Searching translation-specific websites yields different numbers. For example, constraining the search to results in 57% Basic / 42% Intermediate results for the ESV, massively different from the 18% Basic / 80% Intermediate results above.

Download the raw spreadsheet if you’re interested in exploring more.

One Response to “Evaluating Bible Reading Levels with Google”

  1. Robert Rouse says:

    That’s an interesting way to approach such a comparison. I just recently finished a readability graphic that lets you slice and dice things different ways, but for just one translation I wasn’t aware of this new tool from Google…maybe I’ll check it out. Perhaps with the right websites or refined search methods it could be made a bit more accurate.