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But let's use a fictional person who got a 700 on the English portion of their SAT's, then went on to college and aced several english/writing courses...and they wrote something and registered at 8th or 9th grade.
Then we'd know that grading website was wrong, wouldn't we? (a question, not a statement).
So you think that all of the authors I listed did not ace their english/writing courses?
One of the points you're missing is that people, highly intelligent people, often deliberately "tone it down," in order to get something published and/or understood. Good writing is writing that is understandable.
The grading website is not "wrong." It is what it is. A 12th grader doesn't read much better than a 8th grader. He may have a wider vocabulary, but that's about it.
Mr. P can explain it better. It's what he does for a living. I simply run things through a checker and alter them accordingly. I don't really understand "why," I just accept that it helps get things accepted for publication. It's a proven fact and it works. It's not just about comprehension - it's about being interesting and correctly paced.
If you're truly interested, run through something that someone else has written. A famous author, one of your favorite web site bloggers, the bible, an opinion piece from WSJ.
Also, you & both know that no one (even you & I) could not possibly write legal jargon or scientific journals as you described above. But if we got trained on it, we'd do fine.
Actually, a good portion of MrP's job is taking legal jargon and scientific jargon, translating it into plain English and making it something someone who reads at the normal 8th grade level can understand. So yes, he can (and does) write both.
I tend to take jobs which do the exact opposite. I take web sites and blog posts that someone's written at a 3rd grade level and rewrite them into something a bit more sleek and polished.
Neither thing is as easy as you think it is. I'm not even sure it's something most people can be "trained" to do. Good writing is a talent - like painting or sculpting or dancing or singing. If the God-given talent isn't there to begin with it a person can be taught to be adequate but he'll probably never excel at it.
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The use of the short-hand "at an ___ grade level" has probably done more to create obfuscation and near-retardation on the subject of "dumbing down" than anything else I can think of.
Reading levels are used in education to determine what kind of text you can process at various levels. They've been retained and re-purposed to target reading materials at a desired level of clarity and readability.
As the Mrs. says, the long, complicated posts I sometimes put on here are probably up there at 12th grade level, especially if I don't take the time to break up paragraphs.
A lot goes into readability formulas (and there are many ways to do it):
1. Average syllables per word (for some)
2. "Unfamiliar" words, in other formulas. "Unfamiliar" means something you didn't learn until after you could wipe your own butt, basically. For instance, "fork" would be familiar, "utensil" unfamiliar.
2a. There's a reason for this. It's not that you don't know what "utensil" means. It's that it's not easy to know what it means. You do a mental split-second two-step that you don't do for "fork." Scientific studies prove this again and again. There's a koko-like core vocabulary you know best.
3. Sentence length.
These two samples would score very differently:
a) PatriotsReign is a member of PatsFans.com who thinks he writes at a very elevated grade level; however, it might just be that he doesn't know how readability formulas work.
b) PatriotsReigh is a member of PatsFans.com. He thinks he writes at a very elevated grade level. However, it might just be that he doesn't know how readability formulas work.
Obviously that's not to differentiate the two samples above, although if you hooked your eyeballs up to scanners, you'd find that you read and comprehended (b) more quickly. There's also a weighted assumption that longer sentences will contain multiple clauses that elaborate or even counter other parts of the sentence. For clarity it's best to break them up into separate sentences.
4. Paragraph length. For reasons similar to the example above, people can more easily understand shorter paragraphs than longer ones, even if the content is identical.
5. Active voice versus passive voice. "The ball was hit by the batter" scores at a higher (harder to read) grade level than "the batter hit the ball," in some formulas.
There are a ton of methods for checking "reading ease" levels. Dale-Chall and Fleisch-Kinkaid are the ones I'm most familiar with, but there are many more. None of them have anything to do with how complex your content is. They have to do with how complex your presentation is.
So basically, all you nobs saying "TL; DR" are basically just agreeing with what we already know. I'd counter, however, that it is very easy to say nothing with simple sentences, and much harder to present meaningful content that way. That's why I freely acknowledge how self-indulgently I often post here. I can't do two hours of editing on a hobby board.
P.S. - Many people get PhDs, and, if they know what they're doing, they don't show when they're writing. That's because the purpose of writing is communication. Carl Sagan might not be your idea of the world's greatest scientist, but he was very good at explaining fairly complex material simply.
By contrast, others get PhDs and write in a stilted academic style much like the one I use in my least-loved posts. I edit that crap all the time. In college I made a side business out of tutoring the local proto-scientists. You haven't lived until you've had four or five nerds a week telling you you're making them look "stupid," then coming back to tell you how great you are after they get an A.
The Mrs. says she just analyzed my last post and it was 10.5.
There's a website which, if you register, will analyze your writing sample and score it for you. A lot of freelance writers use it because frequently writing assignments specify a grade level for the type of writing expected.
I took the liberty of converting your post to a txt.file and analyzing it for you.
You measured 910.L which translates to a 6th grade level.
There is not much difference between the spoken and written when it comes to holding an audience. If you talk above their heads, if you use long sentences, multi-syllabic words and excessive adjectives, you lose a larg percentage of people along the way.
Much like you complain about MrP's posts, as a matter of fact.
Harry Boy (Genius)
In The Absence Of Law And Order Society Will Surely Destroy Itself
Thats pretty good, I didn't know that site existed, I have to admit even though your a Liberal your a wealth of knowledge.......
Interesting stuff, isn't it?
I've been running random posts through it. I'm trying to use the longer ones because the more you analyze the better it works. A few sentences really don't tell you much.
What I found really interesting was that the most interesting and publishable things are written between a 7-8 grade level if it's put to rhyme it changes things.
For instance, I did Mr.P's "Nevermore" post ( Post-game rewrite -- Quoth the Ravens 'Nevermore' ) from the other board and it came out a Grade 11 - meaning it should be hard to understand and the majority of people would not find it very readable...and yet it's really very understandable and it's easy to read. The analysis does not recognize rhyme or rhythm or take into account what it adds to language.
I think PR has the wrong idea about what the levels signify. He is thinking that the higher the level, the better the writer - but that's not really true. Of course, a low level, such as a 3 or 4 would be bad - but to hover in the 6 - 7 is normal and to hit consistant 8 - 9 would show a really decent grasp of common language and a good command of it's usage. People who can write at the higher levels are highly intelligent, sure, at least in reading/writing, but, rather than strive to write at the 10 - 11- 12 range (which would be detrimental to getting their message across) they should be smart enough to "tone it down," so that they reach a greater audience.