Grade-level writing - tool suggestions?

Subject: Grade-level writing - tool suggestions?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com, "Hughes, Linda" <Linda -dot- Hughes -at- respironics -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 09:43:25 -0500

Linda Hughes wondered: <<A "Provider Manual" for one of our ventilator units is written for a medically-trained audience. Not super-technical, but certainly high-school to college level. We need to rework the manual and reduce it to a 7th grade reading level for use by homecare patients and their families.>>

Is this a statutory requirement of some sort or a formal demand from a client? If so, you need to find out what basis they use to judge the compliance of the text with this grade level.

<<So far our other tech writer has been editing, copying the text from Frame into a Word doc, then analyzing it with the Flesch-Kincaid scale provided in Word. He's not having much luck. Even when it does work, it's a slow, painful way to re-write a 200 page manual.>>

Plus, it's largely meaningless. I've seen several quite convincing research articles that demonstrate the invalidity of such mechanistic reading scales. Don't trust the research? Take any tool you do find, and run any sentence in my reply through the tool. Now randomly reorder the words in that sentence and try again. Try a third time, but with punctuation randomly mutated. Notice any difference in the scale value? Case closed in my opinion.

<<Any ideas on the fastest, least painful way to accomplish the job? We could even throw a few bucks at it, if the right software presented itself.>>

My advice? Hire a good editor who is familiar with this age group. Write the text simply as you can, then turn the editor loose, and pay attention to what they're changing. You won't find a tool that works better or faster.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)

Grade-level writing - tool suggestions?: From: Hughes, Linda

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