Re: Grade-level writing - tool suggestions?

Subject: Re: Grade-level writing - tool suggestions?
From: Kat Nagel <mlists -at- masterworkconsulting -dot- com>
To: "Hughes, Linda" <Linda -dot- Hughes -at- respironics -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 11:04:14 -0500

At 04:20 PM -0500 2004-02-18, Hughes, Linda wrote:

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.
Has anyone else gone through this process recently? Any ideas on the fastest, least painful way to accomplish the job?

I have an unfair advantage in dealing with this sort of thing. My husband is the science guy at a small urban alternative high school where many of the incoming students are reading at the 5th-7th grade level. He has a real gift for explaining complex technical concepts to people with absolutely no backround in the subject without being condescending. When I need to translate something from sciencespeak into simpler language for a lay audience, I give it to him and ask him how he'd explain it to his classes. Works every time.

We could even throw a few bucks at it, if the right software presented itself.

I've considered renting Andy out. There is certainly a market for his talent. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much time for extra tasks during the school year.

Seriously, find someone who successfully teaches middle-school or high-school science, or works with a technology-oriented youth organization, to read through your stuff, identify problem areas, and suggest rephrasings for procedures and troublesome concepts. That's a faster and much more reliable way to accomplish the task than any of the grade-level analysis tools I've seen over the years. There may be someone outside your documentation department, in another part of your company or even an employee's spouse or friend. As a freelancer, it's generally easier for me to get short-term outside help than it would be for a corporate employee, but it should still be doable (is that a word? looks odd and there's no dictionary handy).

Grammar tools depend on arbitrary rules, and none of them really do a decent job. Successful teachers may not be able to articulate a specific set of language analysis rules, but they can instinctively 'hear' the type of language and style that will be both understandable and engaging to someone with a 7th-grade reading level.

Kat Nagel, MasterWork Consulting

katnagel -at- masterworkconsulting -dot- com


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

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