Re: Readability tools? Just say no!

Subject: Re: Readability tools? Just say no!
From: Scott McClare <smcclare -at- DY4 -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 16:26:44 -0500

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Campbell, Art [SMTP:artc -at- NORTHC -dot- COM]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 1999 12:00 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Readability tools? Just say no!
>
> Thanks for your thoughts, Geoffery, but my firm is in business to make
> money. If my doc has to score low on a Flesch scale in order to help the
> business, it will. ;-) Reading level analysis, no matter how
> theoretically flawed it may be, is a criteria for acceptance of
> documentation by large numbers of OEM companies; a number have this
> written into their quality/ISO specs. If you write to that audience,
> you meet the standards.
>
Well, there's nothing like a good bogus criterion to have some fun with.
Suppose, for example, and I'm not in the least suggesting you really do
this, that you create a beautifully readable doc at the accepted readability
level, then jumble all the words within each sentence. According to
Flesch-Kincaid, this unreadable gibberish is still as readable as it was
originally.

Now, give it to an OEM.

OEM: I can't accept this, it's garbage!

You: Are you kidding? Any fifth grader should be able to read and
understand this! You wanted us to write to this level, didn't you?
Flesch-Kincaid never lies!

To which the OEM will, quite understandably, point out that the document
makes no sense because, although sentence and word length provide basic
*guidelines* to what is readable and what isn't, readability is affected by
far more things.

By some tests, the King James Version of the Bible has a lower reading grade
level than twentieth-century translations. True, it uses shorter words and
sentences. Yet how many people can actually pick up a four-hundred-year-old
KJV and say it's much easier to read than a New International Version from
1974?

Take care,

Scott

--
Scott McClare - Technical Writer
DY 4 Systems Inc., Kanata, Ontario, Canada
(613) 599-9199 x502 smcclare -at- dy4 -dot- com
Opinions are my own


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