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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Cutting through the fog

This is a blog. It has words. I write them. You read them. The words should all be short, and the sentences, too. That way, you will be able to understand what I am saying. That is good. Big words are bad. Long sentences are wrong. Big words and long sentences make communication harder. We do not want that. We want to keep things simple. If not, we will be sad. I won't be saying what I mean to. You won't be hearing what you need to. We both will have failed. That is not good. Let's not do it.

The above sample has a "fog index" of 4.2. It's one way of calculating how easy writing is to read -- the ideal is 7 or 8, and anything approaching 12 is too difficult. There are plenty of other methods that newspapers use to make sure they are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.  Other tests are designed to calculate at what grade level writing can be understood by. "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss tests at the grade 1-to-3 level. Most newspapers, believe it or not, have aimed  for about a 6th- or 7th-grade level. And they still do, only more so:

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- Newspaper editors are worried about how to grab readers. And a Cleveland Plain Dealer internal memo from last week urges reporters to keep things simple. Plain English and short, uncomplicated sentences are best. It notes that Sen. Sherrod Brown's spouse, columnist Connie Schultz, has written at a level appropriate for fifth graders. Meanwhile, Washington bureau reporter Sabrina Eaton seems to be rebuked. The memo says she wrote about Dennis Kucinich at a level appropriate for high school seniors, or subscribers to The New York Times. Her "reading ease" score was low.

This really isn't "dumbing down." It's trying to reach as many people as possible -- read some Hemingway. The most complicated idea can be presented in the simplest terms.


Bob G.
Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:19am

Leave it to those wacky people in OHIO, eh?

(that at least explains why comments on MY blog are so infrequent...it's WAY OVER THEIR HEADS)

Note to self: simple sentences - one noun, one verb..and an object.


(ahh...papa and his cats)