Reading level (was RE: Principles for procedure writing)

Subject: Reading level (was RE: Principles for procedure writing)
From: MList -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2003 14:03:41 -0400

Maggie Pierce Secara [mailto:maggiros -at- yahoo -dot- com] suggested:
> We always have to remember that writing to an 6th
> grade reading level is not the same as writing to an
> 6th grader.

> --- Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com> wrote:

> > I don't consider writing for a reading level below
> > mine "dumbing down" i the slightest. To the
> > contrary, I consider it one of the most interesting
> > challenges I can face as a writer. When I was
> > Contributing Editor at Maximum Linux, I knew that my
> > audience consisted largely of twenty-somethings with
> > not especially good literacy skills, and I throughly
> > enjoyed trying to write Linux configuration articles
> > that they would understand.

Is there research to suggest that one's reading level
declines below what one achieved in school, if one doesn't
ever do much reading? I do know some office workers who
leave the office and either watch TV or play (fill in favorite
recreational teamsport). Not only don't they read for
recreation (or even self-improvement), they're proud of it.

So, if their minds have been puddling for some years, then
to what level should one be writing when addressing them?

In the same vein, my impression is that people who graduate
high-school these days (or even who get into college) haven't
necessarily achieved a reading level commensurate with the
last school grade that's on their transcript... i.e., how
many grade-12 _readers_ are out there, as opposed to grade-8
readers who got through to HS grad by ... other means?

I've been writing for engineers and software designers and
corporate security experts for the past several years, so
I'm out of touch with the level expected for mass-market
or consumer instructional documents.

/kevin (who always has two or three novels on the go, along
with several magazines, and who reads the labels on
the food packages if there's nothing else handy...)

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