What’s a GL and PSS got to do with writing?

If you’ve been following my Flash Fiction prompt on Fridays, you may notice I mention things called GL and passive sentence structure. Why do I do that and why are those things important?

Some people think if you write, then you’re all good. The problem with that is, you are only as good as your editor when it comes to publishing.

You must know what writing is about.

You must know what it takes to make a story you like.

You must always be learning and realize you don’t know everything and never will, and that’s okay.

Writing Tips with Ronovan-Passive Sentences and Reading Level

Grade Reading Level

GL is the reading grade level of a book. For fiction, you generally want your book not too difficult so the reader can get lost in the story and forget they are reading at all. If you can do that, you have a good reading level.

There are many ways the grade reading level is determined. The one I use it strictly based on the length of sentences and the syllables used. I don’t take into consideration the content of your work. That is something for professionals to determine. I think most of us know if we have violence, profanity, or sex in a book, the reading level is going to go up.

As time goes by, the suggested grade reading level drops according to what society sees as acceptable. In addition, you need to keep in mind the level will be different for the general public than it might be for schools where books are for educational purposes in classrooms.

You might think adults would read books at a level of 12 or higher. Realistically we want something simpler, where we know most of the words if not all of them. Most of the greatest fiction, or most popular, is written around a grade level of five or six, and that is for adult readers as well as teens.

Harry Potter is a GL of around five. Tolkien is around GL 6.5. In other words, don’t knock a GL of 5-6 when you see it in the weekly #Links post I put out.

If you are participating in the weekly prompts and are not writing around that level, it’s up to you to decide if you want to adjust. Now you know how to adjust. If you want a higher GL, use longer words and sentences. If you want a lower GL, then shorter words and sentences.

How do I determine the GL of the entries into the challenge? Word has a built in tool that does it for me.

Now you know why I include the GL in the comments/links for the entries to the challenge.

How about PSS?

I’ve more recently begun including the passive sentence structure percentage. Why did I do that? Passive sentences normally end up being longer and somewhat convoluted, causing the reader to do more to understand the sentence. Passive slows down the reading, the progress, and action of the story.

I know, some of you are thinking your book is not an action story, but each book has something going on that needs to move forward. You want to carry the reader onward. You don’t want to have your reader bogged down and their brain getting tired or bored.

Doing prompt challenges like the one I host, or any blog for that matter, helps you get in the habit of writing in the grade level you like and in an active voice. You don’t want to write an entire book and realize you need to change it all. 350 pages of do over is a daunting thing to face.

Use Word, if you have it, and set things up to check for passive voice. Yes, Word has that ability. Check out Using Proofing To Help Your Fiction Diction & More! to see how to set Word to work for you.

I don’t give much feedback about how to improve writing, because when I have given serious feedback I ended up with anger and defensiveness. That is another reason I put the GL and passive sentence structure percentage in the links.

Ronovan Hester is an author, whose debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling is available now on Kindle and in Paperback is ready to ship now. Click HERE to choose.

My Book SupportersClick the image for Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling on Amazon.com.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


 © Copyright-All rights reserved by ronovanwrites.wordpress.com 2016.


42 thoughts on “What’s a GL and PSS got to do with writing?

  1. Then again, some of my favorite writers (Pynchon, Lessing, Percy) write at a much higher reading level and I love to get lost in Pynchon’s and Faulkner’s elaborate and labyrinthine sentences and paragraphs. I respect the notion of grade level, and sometimes I recognize the need to write for a general audince, but I also feel that if I don’t challenge my readers to stretch occassionally I’m doing them no favors either.

    The challenge of a well written and delicious but complex sentence will usually cause readers who never wish to be challenged to simply skip ahead. But I believe some readers may discover the delights of a well turned and complex phrase and pick up more challenging books in the future. Not Finnegan’s Wake, perhaps, but Mr. Sammler’s Planet or One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    On the other hand if your writing is at grade 12 or higher simply because it is dense, plodding and dull…Well, you need need to remember readers want snappy, stylish prose not another college sociology textbook.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree. If a writer is writing at a high reading level just to be doing so and what is being written doesn’t flow or make sense, then it is almost pointless. Some of my fiction challenge participants will write at a high level and you never even realize it. They have a style that doesn’t stick polysyllabic words next to each other but instead use them spread out through a sentence. As long as the piece reads well, it is a good thing. Right now I’m working on having my challenge members understand what the reading level is and means in the overall.
      Thank you for your comments. Very intelligent and not just a lot of hot air. 🙂 You actually added to the enrichment of the readers of the post.
      Much Respect

      Liked by 1 person

        • I’ll give you a few spill ideas to use.
          1) Morgan is asking questions at the store or has moved on to another place and she bumps into a person and something spills out of their purse, brief case, or whatever.

          2) Maybe something spills from someones cup and it burns through something in front of her and her friends’ eyes. Like acid or something in a cup meant of her.

          3) Someone spills a secret they shouldn’t have.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Writing is a complex craft. On the one hand you want short sentences because they increase the “speed” of the text, however you also don’t want to end up with a too low GL. Add the complexity of dialogue, which may not be using too many words with lot’s of syllables … Maybe one day I’ll get there. Thanks for the informative article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for this Ronovan. I have been stumped by reading level for a very long time because I am quite interested in writing for children as well as adults and didn’t know what level to pitch my writing at so this is very helpful xx Rowena


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.