Readability of Christian Authors Infographic

What do you think of the results?  Let's talk about it in the comments.

The purpose behind the research for this infographic was to find out if writing styles have changed drastically over time.  Reading MacDonald and his contemporaries led me to think we moderns don't write, read, and think with the complexity of the Christian authors of that day.  This graphic backs that up. 

The thought of reading Lyman Beecher's The Nature and Occasions of Intemperence at 16.1 is, well, sobering.

This brings up some interesting questions which go beyond the scope of this inquiry.  I am not drawing any conclusions from these results, but conclusions would be worth the time for someone with more of it than I have.

Does a work that is more readable correlate to higher sales?  Rick Warren's book would lead you toward that conclusion.

Are we dumberer than we used to be?  Or are there more less-educated readers these days than in past centuries?


The works were selected based on the popularity of the author or preacher.  The works are focused on popular theology.  The hope was that focusing on one type of work would yield more consistent and comparable results.

I stayed away from fiction aside from Bunyan, whom I couldn't resist.  I tried to average one work per decade, but obviously didn't make that a rule.  

Big thanks to the wonderful folk at The George MacDonald Society Facebook group for helping me flesh out this list.

Do I agree with all of these authors?  No.

How I got the numbers

I used a selection from each author of several hundred words and plugged them into this readablity test tool.  Take a shot at it yourself.  It's fun in a geeky kind of way.  For some of the newer works, I used this tool which converts scanned page text into editable text.  It works really well.

Is it possible that scores will change from one work to another by the same author?  Yes.  This comparison serves for a general understanding of writing styles over time, and for that purpose, I think it works well.  I tried to take the most well-known of the author's works for the study.

MacDonald fans will be interested to know that I used the Consuming Fire sermon from Unspoken Sermons for the test.

You might also be interested to know that the text in this post scored a 6.4.  No offense intended, dear reader.

Links to the works: