Re: Dumbing it down

Subject: Re: Dumbing it down
From: Ed Gregory <edgregory -at- HOME -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 06:56:57 -0600

Before you get hung up in the "dumbing down" argument, take a look at your
favorite writers. Scan, type, or download a healthy passage from the
Gutenberg Project. Then run your favorite grammar checker/readability wonk.

I can write documents that only those with a doctorate in astrophysics can
comprehend, but do I want to? And, more importantly, do even the these
folks want to read anything so stilted? Or do they want to read the
writings of people like Carroll, Hardy, Hawthorne, Zola.

Did you delight to Alice in Wonderland? Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 4;
Passive Sentences: 1%

And I know that the folks who watch South Park religiously are great fans
of Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose Scarlet Letter rated a 5 on the
Flesch-Kincaid scale. Oh, yeah, and 0% passive sentences.

Well, now, then how did ol' Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure strike yer
fancy? Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 4; Passive Sentences: 0%. Perhaps
Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles was written for "dumb" people. After all,
it has a grade level of just 3 and, again, 0% passive sentences.

How about good ol'e Emile Zola? I see a lot of his stuff in the "reading
room" at McDonald's. Especially popular with the hamburger-flipping set is
Death of Olivier Becaille, which gets a grade level of 4, and reports 1%
passive sentences.

A personal favorite (not really): Nicolo Machiavelli. The Prince, in
translation, gets a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 5, with 1% passive
sentences. But hey, this one's a translation. Maybe the translator, like
any good editor, cleaned up ole Nic's copy. ;-}




At 05:25 PM 12/8/98 -0800, Amy G. Peacock wrote:
>Hi all,
>I just finished using the grammar checker in Word so that I could get
>some readability scores on my docs. That used to be alot easier than
>it is now - or maybe I am just doing it wrong...
>At any rate, my question isn't really about the grammar tool in Word.
>It's more about having to dumb down a document to a certain grade
>level of reading. The dumber the better it seems. My purpose in using
>the tool in the first place was to show the higherups (they do like to
>see those numbers, don't they?) that my words really aren't too
>big, etc. One doc had a readability level of 5.3 and the other had a
>level of 7.2. Not too bad, I thought.
>How do the rest of you deal with this kind of attitude? I am all for
>making the docment easy to read, simple, clear, and so on - but there
>comes a time when I reach my limit, and my willingness to be helpful
>to the user turns to irritation and frustration. I think I know my
>audience pretty well and I always strive to produce something helpful
>to them.
>Amy Peacock
>techwriter & jewelrymaker
>Snohomish, Washington
>apeacock -at- wolfenet -dot- com
>"How do I set my laser printer to stun?"
> 13 days until the Winter Solstice
>From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==
Ed Gregory

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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