Reading what we write

Posted on December 2, 2011 by


If you can read and understand most of what is written on this blog, then you have a reading level equivalent to at least 12 years of formal schooling. Or rather, it’s the equivalent to at least 12 years of formal schooling… back in 1949, when the Flesch-Kincaid reading test was created. Being a high school graduate used to really mean something!

Average reading scores have since declined dramatically, but the test has not been recentered. The average reading level of Americans is now only 8th grade, and most people write at a lower level than they read at (6th grade).

As you can see in the following graph, the high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing since 1949. Hmm… That means people actually have the same reading level now that they did back when most people didn’t finish high school. It takes them 4 years longer to be equally well-read, which might explain why employers are now demanding an extra four years after high school.

I followed one of Vox Popoli‘s links to a readability tester, and plugged in some of my longer comments from a previous thread, which ranged from 8 to 14 grade levels. This comment from me earned an 10.71 grade level and a 52.39 reading ease score (above the comprehension of most high school graduates). This one got 14.21/37.41 (above the comprehension of most college graduates).

If you understood it all, that means you’re very well-educated. Pat yourself on the back. Did you know you were reading at such a smart blog? For comparison, the average State of the Union speech scores 10.7/20.6, and the first chapter of Chesterton’s Orthodoxy scores 9.87/62.58.

On the downside, I suspect the sometimes difficult readability of this blog reduces the number of potential readers, and text readability can become “higher level” simply by being too densely written or pompous. This article scores only 6.93/64.26 because I am expressing myself clearly and simply in order to promote comprehension.

I try to mix it up and lighten it up sometimes, so that it doesn’t all read like an encyclopedia. But the next time your spouse says, “Why are you wasting your time on blogs? You’re going to rot your mind!” you can answer truthfully, “Dearest darling, I am currently engaged in a heated collegiate debate concerning immutability and transubstantiation.”

That last sentence? 18.58/-11.43 points. Class adjourned!

Posted in: Education