And your score is…

I’ll admit that a lot of the Brandt paper was of zero interest to me. I just felt like I was reading a lot of lofty, unsubstantiated wording, which is not true, but as someone not versed at all in the topic, I was lost. What I did really enjoy were the concrete examples she offered of interviews she had conducted with various people. The snippet that struck me the most was with the education specialist from a national trade association. He talked about sending in all his work to have it run through the Rudolph Flesch readability forumla.

Readability formula!?!?

At first, I was totally shocked by this. The more thought I lent the topic however, the more sense it made. I remember an assignment I had to do for a scientific writing¬† class I took freshman year. We were required to “translate” an original research article into an article for a popular magazine. My prof at the time asked all five (yeah, five) of us in the class our best guess for the national reading grade level. I boldly, and in clear demonstration of my naivete, offered some high school as the reading level. Wrong. Third grade. 3rd grade. That blew me away. Language, word choice, sentence structure, sentence length, syntax, all of that stuff we agonize over because we think it makes good writing. It has to be simple for real world consumption.

This brings me to two last points with the Brandt paper. First, I think literacy and reading are a HUGE issue in this country. The SES connection is a deeply disturbing one brought to light by Brandt. This highly industrialized country has only a 98% literacy rate. Most European countries have 99 or 100%. I don’t believe reading should ever be put on the backburner as far as how undeniably essential and important it is to functioning in our culture and society.

Lastly, in light of our discussion about the essay rubric in class today, I think the readability formula really highlights just how important audience and purpose are to every piece of writing we do from now until we stop writing. It is critical that you know who you are writing for/to because every audience calls forth very different demands from the writer.

One thought to “And your score is…”

  1. The issue you bring up about readability is something I have never thought of before and is something that I think is very relavent especially on a college campus. Often times when I read my peers’ essays (and even when editing my own) I find that the main point or central claim is lost in the wordiness of the essay (in this case when I say wordiness I mean the “over-use” of long, complex words that make papers sound “better”). While I ultimately end up suggesting to my classmates that they delete these complex phrases and edit them out of my own papers, I am always upset to do so because I fear that by ridding my paper of these words I am somehow making my paper less academic. After reading this post, however, I now realize that at the end of the day the central claim of a paper might be more important than the level of sophistication of my language, and readability is not determined by this supposed level of sophistication that is brought about by the use of complex words.

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