A Pop Quiz for Twitter Accounts

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Time’s up- pencils down. Time Magazine developed a tool to calculate a Twitter account’s reading level. By referencing a user’s 20 most recent tweets, an approximate reading level is determined using a variation of the SMOG formula for JavaScript. However, the Twitterverse doesn’t exactly earn a gold star: Time found that most tweets rank in the 4th grade reading level followed by the 2nd grade reading level.


The online tool allows people to search any public account. Or, there is a “surprise me” feature that scores a popular celebrity’s Twitter at random. Instead of analyzing the tweets separately, tweets are assessed as a single paragraph to ensure accuracy. Then, using a bar graph, the searched account is compared to a distribution of one million tweets. SMOG- which supposedly stands for Simple Measure of Gobbledygook- determined that politicians have the most “goobledygook” words, which boosts the reading level. However, a high reading level is not the ultimate goal. Instead, tweets should reflect the voice of the person or brand to communicate effectively. 


After evaluating the Kardashians’ accounts, use the tool constructively. If you’re running a social media account as a news source, then a basic vocabulary should inform followers. As a reference, @CNN and @USAToday have a 5th grade reading level. If you’re managing a professional account, use the tool to assess if tweets are using powerful but concise language. Even if your Twitter is just for personal use, utilize the feedback to exercise your writing skills. Remember that the SMOG formula evaluates an account’s writing differently than a person would. Nevertheless, seize the opportunity to re-evaluate your writing. Sometimes a 140 character limit can be challenging, but don’t let it completely stifle your vocabulary or writing style. Start by removing lazy adverbs with descriptive adjectives; for example replace “ran quickly” (11 characters) with “sprinted” (8 characters). Also, aim for perfect grammar even if you have to adjust your word choice. Don’t let your tweets chirp if they can sing. 

What was the highest reading level you found for a celebrity account? What was the lowest? How will you use the tool to analyze your Twitter account?

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