Hand Tools Archive

How to talk to 13 year olds

After Ellis made the point that the best target is a grade 8 student, I wondered how do you do that. I don't even talk down to a 3 years old. 12 years later she is a double honors student. Writing nonsense is easy, it isn't a style so much as a lack of connection with reality. But other than throwing in a few folksy words, how do you write like a dumb as... a grade 8. Turns out that talking stupid is way easier than I thought: You can monitor the reading level of a document by turning on the readability statistics option in the proofing settings of Microsoft Word, of course you would be drafting the text in MSW. This activates the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level measurement, which calculates the number of years of education needed to comprehend the text. Unfortunately my computer is too stupid to dumb me down (or up), since I have some 25 K version of word on my computer...

It's still confusing. How come, the average readability index concludes that the average reader only got to grade eight, with huge numbers needing to be well below that, to average out the graduates and college folks. It isn't even legal to drop out of school until Grade 11 around here. How is half the country doing it? Sounds like the schools should also be providing more pictures.

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