Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Do You Understand The Words I Am Writing?

Yesterday, someone exposed me to the "Blog Readability Test". The test uses a mathematical algorithm to determine the reading level needed to comprehend the document or in this case blog. Since math can't actually tell whether the writing is actually good or not, this is suppose to be used only to predict if the document is suitable for it's intended audience. In a thread discussing this test and it's results it was suggested that one should aim for a junior high or high school reading level so as not to alienate too many readers. Though I've done no research to support this, the claim was that the average adult reads at that level. So the logic follows , if I want to reach the most people I should write at that level. To that, I say phooey!

I have a confession, I can be a bit of a snob, an elitist if you will. Although I haven't had much time as of late to read anything but children's books, I enjoy a good challenging read. There is no point, in my opinion, to reading something that does not challenge you in some way, be it intellectually, creatively or emotionally. When I decided to write a blog, I had no illusions of fame or popularity. I knew that I had to write something that I would enjoy reading or I would get bored quickly and this would just be another abandoned project. I assumed by doing this, I would attract an audience that I would actually want to talk to. So far, I have been right in that assumption. I have no interest in expanding my demographic using this method, though I do not fault people for using it for other purposes. Your local newspaper for instance should be readable by everyone, but I don't have a need to attract everyone.

You'll notice that I haven't posted the level I received from the test. You can check if you want to, but I was actually a little disappointed that it wasn't a bit higher. To that end, I plan on busting out the thesaurus and using some real twenty dollar words from now on. So, I apologize in advance if you can no longer comprehend my verbiage, if you can't, you are apparently no longer in my target demographic and you will have to go elsewhere for wisdom and wit.

10 comments:

michelle said...

thanks for the chuckle this morning :)

I was reading at 12+ in 7th grade, so when I was doing my stint in corporate america and was told to write my technical documents at an 8th grade reading level, I was like "wha??? you're kidding right?" but no, they were serious. I learned first-hand that some pretty smart people can't understand written documents. I don't really understand it, but I did have to accept it.

my dad told me a funny story once.... and he never did say a mean thing about my mom until I was all grown up and realized myself what a witch she was.... he said she was always using big words and confusing him so he couldn't understand what she was saying about him, then one day she called him a pig. "that", he said with a laugh, "I could understand!" my dad was an awesome man and my partner in crime when it came to trying new artsy/craftsy things, but his intelligence was a quieter kind. I apparently inherited my mother's love of big fancy words.

oh, and if they're obscure, even better!

Galeana said...

I checked out that readability test, too. I'm not sure what to make of my score though.

Mary Richmond said...

remember that the advice was you wanted your website and blog to be at elementary level for people to read it all the way through...anything higher than that people are skimming and skipping....or leaving!

so whatever yours was, i'm not telling mine, either (i took the test too!) ;-)

brightonEarly said...

I wouldn't read into that test too much. Both of my blogs got a "genius" rating. Let me tell you, they are DEFINITELY not genius material. I haven't written anything heavy duty since high school...

Angie said...

I don't think you should downgrade your level of writing to please a test. I found your entry to be just fine for my reading level.

Sarah Dungan said...

First, I believe that people will either try to understand and care or not, and it has nothing to do with their reading level. And I know first hand, that often, a well written piece is much more convincing then a poorly written one!
Oh the other hand, I am mildly dyslexic and have always had difficulty learning from written instructions. So I can't say I've never wished for a simpler sentence structure or shorter words. I think it depends what you're writing and who you're writing it for.

Gina said...

I wouldn't put too much stock in it either. I'm very much aware of my audience if I'm writing for an audience. I do a lot of training and anytime I want something to be easily understood, I'm going to write in the simplest manner with the fewest words. Writing for entertainment is something entirely different. Of course, you can be informative and entertaining at the same time - but it can be more of a challenge, depending on your projected audience.
:-) Gina

Jrahn said...

Oh yeah.. I was reading @ the 10th grade level when I was in the 3rd grade! Take that!

Jrahn said...

i was only joking, but seriously.

Julie D'Arcy said...

As a fellow Etsy seller, a fellow tatter (though I haven't made any for sale yet), and proofreader/editor, I say: Go, girl!
Yes, okay, I wish I could have thought of a more loquacious and abstruse way of saying it, but I haven't finished my morning coffee yet.
As the only science major in a family full of English majors and journalists, I have always felt lacking in vocab skills, but then I read other people's writings and I realize that I am probably not so bad.
Considering how few hits my own blog gets, I must be writing at some above-average level myself. Perhaps we can aim at that market that wants to believe they're smart and pretends to get what we're saying... ?