Re: Dumbing it down

Subject: Re: Dumbing it down
From: Tracy Boyington <tracy_boyington -at- OKVOTECH -dot- ORG>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 08:32:51 -0600

Amy said:
> One doc had a readability level of 5.3 and the other had a
> level of 7.2. Not too bad, I thought.

Forgive my ignorance, but there are different kinds of readability
scales... are these levels the kind that are based on one's theoretical
"grade level?" If so, I know the average American who completes 12th
grade does *not* read on a 12th grade level. I don't remember how much
lower it is, but it's quite a bit lower.

Have you compared these levels to the levels of other documents written
for your audience?

> I think I know my
> audience pretty well and I always strive to produce something helpful
> to them.

You haven't told us how you know how well you know them. Have you done
any usability testing? It could be helpful here.

and then Elna said:
> There's a difference between "dumbing it down" and writing in simple, clear
> language. Grammar checkers tend to look at polysyllabic words as a measure of
> reading level - the more words you have with three or more syllables, the
> higher the reading level.

And that's one thing that has always bugged me about grammar checkers...
the idea that understanding "thermometer" requires a higher reading
level than understanding "quark." And God forbid you should write
something about Mississippi. ;-)

Tracy Boyington mailto:tracy_boyington -at- okvotech -dot- org
Oklahoma Dept. of Vocational & Technical Education
Curriculum & Instructional Materials Center
Stillwater, Oklahoma

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