Readability battle: card agreements versus Harry Potter

See how financial forms compare to famous novels, historic documents

As part of our Credit Card Readability Study, we compared how card agreements stacked up in readability against familiar documents, from novels to nursery rhymes to the U.S. Constitution.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

Grade level: 5.4
Words analyzed: 44
Average sentence length: 14.7
Syllables: 50
3 or more syllable words: 1

Excerpt“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are! Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.”


National Anthem

Grade level: 6.5
Words analyzed: 80
Average sentence length: 20
3 or more syllable words: 3

Excerpt: O say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?”


“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (J.K. Rowling)

Grade level: 8.5
Words analyzed: 2,740
Average sentence length: 19
3 or more syllable words: 211

Excerpt“On the whole, Harry thought he was to be congratulated on his idea of hiding here. He was not, perhaps, very comfortable lying on the hot, hard earth, but on the other hand, nobody was glaring at him, grinding their teeth so loudly that he could not hear the news, or shooting nasty questions at him, as had happened every time he had tried sitting down in the living room and watching television with his aunt and uncle.”


HUD Good Faith Estimate

Grade level: 8.5
Words analyzed: 1,467
Average sentence length: 14
3 or more syllable words: 240

Excerpt: “This GFE gives you an estimate of your settlement charges and loan terms if you are approved for this loan. For more information, see HUD’s Special Information Booklet on settlement charges, your Truth-in-Lending Disclosures, and other consumer information at”


Book of Exodus, King James Bible

Grade level: 10.9
Words analyzed: 6,357
Average sentence length: 27
3 or more syllable words: 275

Excerpt“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”


IRS Form 1040 Instructions - Introduction

Grade level: 11.5
Words analyzed: 999
Average sentence length: 16
3 or more syllable words: 152

Excerpt“If you or someone in your family was an employee in 2015, the employer may be required to send you a Form 1095-C. Part II of Form 1095-C shows whether your employer offered you health insurance coverage and, if so, information about the offer. This information may be relevant if you purchased health insurance coverage for 2015 through the Health Insurance Marketplace and wish to claim the premium tax credit on line 69.”


USA Today Editorial

Grade level: 11.7
Words analyzed: 747
Words analyzed: 613
Average sentence length: 21
3 or more syllable words: 71

Excerpt“When school opens next month in Seattle, most high school starting bells will ring nearly an hour later than last year, putting Seattle in the growing ranks of districts that recognize a basic scientific fact: Teenagers are biologically built to stay up later and sleep later.”


California Real Estate Purchase Agreement

Grade Level: 11.8
Words analyzed: 4,090
Average sentence length: 16
3 or more syllable words: 884

Excerpt“All cash offer: No loan is needed to purchase the property. Written verification of sufficient funds to close this transaction is attached to this offer or buyer shall, within 3 (or ______ ) days after acceptance, deliver to seller such verification.”


Average credit card agreement - United Federal Credit Union Visa Card

Grade level: 11.9
Words analyzed: 3,765
Average sentence length: 26.5
3 or more syllable words: 490

Excerpt“You promise to repay all debts and the finance charge thereon arising from any authorized use of the Card and the Card Account. For example, you are responsible for charges made by yourself, your spouse and minor children. You are also responsible for charges made by anyone else to whom you give the Card, and this responsibility continues until the card is recovered.”


“History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (Edward Gibbon)

Grade level: 16.8
Words analyzed: 608
Average sentence length: 33.8
3 or more syllable words: 104

Excerpt“The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under the republic; and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied with preserving those dominions which had been acquired by the policy of the senate, the active emulations of the consuls, and the martial enthusiasm of the people.”


New York Times Editorial

Grade level: 17.3
Words analyzed: 444
Average sentence length: 26.1
3 or more syllable words: 103

Excerpt“In a corrective action more than a decade in the making, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have the right to unionize. The ruling reverses a misguided decision by the board in 2004, which held that graduate assistants at Brown University were primarily students, not employees, and thus had no standing to form a union.”


U.S. Constitution

Grade level: 18
Words analyzed: 4,338
Average sentence length: 39
3 or more syllable words: 660

Excerpt“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


“Finnegan’s Wake” (James Joyce)

Grade level: 20
Words analyzed: 142
Average sentence length: 47.3
3 or more syllable words: 21

Excerpt“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”

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Updated: 11-19-2018