RE: car seats, tech writing, and literacy

Subject: RE: car seats, tech writing, and literacy
From: "Jennifer Rondeau" <jrondeau -at- fabtrol -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 11:22:54 -0700

I got the following message from Sean Hower, which I didn't see posted on
the list, in response to my post yesterday on literacy rates. My post was
in reply to the original post of a link to an MSNBC (I think) piece on
car-seat instructions. The same information seems to have appeared on as well, judging by this morning's posts, so I'll try to clarify
my original point.

<quote from Sean>Wow, those stats [on the National Institute For Literacy website] are
depressing. I have no idea what context your post was in, but are you
suggesting that we should write to a level 1 audience?<end quote from Sean>

I wasn't suggesting that we write to a level 1 audience (or even level 2,
for that matter). Partly I was sharing information I've felt frustrated
by recently in other parts of my life (I live in Oregon, and have school
aged children. For those of you more luckily situated and only regionally
informed, we are facing a state budget crisis on a scale folks once
identified only with New York, and it really is all about preposterous
mismanagement. School years are being shortened as I write, and this time
it looks like no idle threat. No need to wonder at where Oregon's
literacy rates will be a decade from now. Or where local job
opportunities will be far sooner than that.).

Partly I thought that understanding that half of Americans function at a
minimal literacy rate helps explain the bizarre things that happen with
even the best written of instructions (which those for car seat
installation may or may not be).

And partly it would seem that the prevalence of minimal literacy helps
explain the need for non-technical technical writers.

On the other hand, maybe it will come to writing to a level 2 audience
(fifth grade level? eighth grade level?).

I now promise not to post any more until I can help somebody do something.
'Nuff ranting.

Jennifer Rondeau
FabTrol Systems, Inc.
jrondeau -at- fabtrol -dot- com


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