Readability in the British Journal of Surgery


  • The Flesch score of this manuscript at submission was 23.4. This changed to 25.7 after the first revision and became 32.0 after editing.



Readability scores predict the ease with which a document can be read and understood. Identification of the factors that affect readability might improve the quality of surgical literature.


Electronic copies of submitted, peer reviewed and edited manuscripts of 189 articles published in the British Journal of Surgery from March 2006 to April 2007 were studied. Flesch reading ease scores were calculated for each version. Type of article (meta-analysis, review, randomized trial or other original paper), first language of principal author, number of peer revisions and editor were recorded.


Flesch score varied according to type of article (P = 0·004). The mean readability score was lower when English was the first language of the principal author (P = 0·016). There was no significant difference in mean Flesch score between the submitted and accepted (peer reviewed) manuscripts, but a significant increase occurred after editing (P < 0·001), which did not vary between editors.


Several factors influence readability. Knowledge of such factors might help authors to improve their scientific writing. Copyright © 2007 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.