Reading level guidelines for (translated) training material?

Subject: Reading level guidelines for (translated) training material?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, jopakent -at- comcast -dot- net
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2008 17:51:52 -0500

J. Paul Kent wondered: <<I'm creating training material that will be
presented with the assistance of a translator. That is, the presenter
will be delivering in English and (at least some) of the attendees
will be receiving the content in Chinese. We are expecting a list of
attendees in the next week or so. I'm trying to get the customer to
supply as much information as possible, but I'm not yet sure what I'm
going to get. Hopefully I'll soon learn whether any of the trainees
will be English-speaking (and at what level). Once I have more
information, I'll establish some standard reading-level guidelines
for the material.>>

Don't waste your time on "reading levels" (
resources/2000/readability.htm). There have been many compelling
studies that demolish the notion that they're useful, including "Last
Rites for Readability Formulas in Technical Communication" (B.R.
Connatser, Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, v29 n3
p271-87 1999). The only studies I've seen that suggest a causal
correlation between readability formulas and comprehension did not
control for the quality of the writing, and thus provide meaningless

My favorite example of why readability formulas are meaningless: Take
any comprehensible sentence and randomize the word order. Calculate
the readability index for both sentences. If it's identical, the
formula is useless.

You'll have much better success if you hire a good editor to simplify
(not "dumb down") the text. These people are probably pretty bright,
but you'll never know this if you judge them solely on their English
language skills. You might also be interested in my discussion of my
own experiences in cross-cultural communication (http://www.geoff-

My experience with giving presentations to Chinese audiences with the
assistance of a professional interpreter/translator is that the
single biggest thing you can do to increase your success is to sit
down with this person in advance to discuss the content and ensure
that they understand it. Pay attention to areas that require
additional explanation; those are areas that require rewriting. Once
you're sure they understand, you can rely on them to tailor the
information to the needs of their audience.

If you'll be doing simultaneous real-time translation, remind the
English speaker that they should slow down and speak more clearly
than usual; the oral skills of many bilingual people (myself
included) are usually much weaker than our writing and reading skills
due to a lack of practice listening to the speaker's specific accent
and the fact that you can take as much time as you want with written

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
***Now available*** _Effective onscreen editing_


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Reading level guidelines for (translated) training material: From: jopakent

Previous by Author: Peer Review Process/Best Practices?
Next by Author: RE: practicalities of blogging
Previous by Thread: RE: Reading level guidelines for (translated) training material
Next by Thread: Hopeless question: fund/raising

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads