|2011-02-14 10:41:25||How to write plain English|
While researching an issue on Real Climate, the following post in a comment thread to the article I found jumpted out a t me. It's interesting from more than one perspective. Note the date, Enjoy!
I hate to be blunt and mean: You guys are wasting your time. No one who doesn’t agree with you is going to fight through your essays as currently writen. You are fighting the good fight — but you’ve no chance of winning.
I used the readability tool in MS Word to check your entry “Are Temperature Trends Affected by Economic Activity.” Your piece is less readable than journal articles in Harvard Law Review. Your piece is slightly easier to read than the average insurance policy.
Clarity and efficiency in writing is important on the web and in email. More important than on the printed page. Computer screens cause substantially more eye-fatigue than do printed pages. So people scan to compensate.
For clarity of writing on the web I’ve found the work of Dr. Rudolf Flesch helpful. He developed a formula back in the 40′s for readability. I’ve begun using it for my own web writing and email and noticed real improvement in audience comprehension.
A quick review of his work is here:
Newer versions of MS Word include a readability-checker with the other grammar tools.
1) Revise your pieces using some sort of readabilty tool in your word processor. While imperfect it will give an objective idea of how readable your pieces are.
2) Get a grad-student from the Lit or Writing department to write for you. (Personally — I wish all researchers would do this with all their publications! :-))
Apologies for being so brutal. What you guys are doing is great! Research is of much greater utility when it’s more accessible. I just worry you’ll get discouraged from the lack of success.
I agree completely with the message from James Acres.
If I were the "approval czar", I would not pass any Basic Rebuttal or Blog Posting with a reading level greater than 8th grade.
If an article isn't comprehensible to the target audience, it has no impact.
Thanks for that tip on the readability checker. Checked two of my posts: one published (9th grade level) and one in progress (12th grade level).
Got some editing to do...
There are also web tools which perform this function
This is the output for the last SkS article
Web Address: http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-carbon-cycle-david-archer-review.html This page has an average grade level of about 10. It should be easily understood by 15 to 16 year olds
What do these results mean?
The indicator bars give a visual guide for the readability of the text. Red is a low readability score. Green is easily readable
However, according to the same site this text is supposed to be easily understood by a 14 year old!
If you paste the URL it also includes all the comments, which drags down my lofty use of language... :P
14-15 for my rebuttal to Willis Eschenbach. Reckon he'll be able to follow it?
Also, RC is designed to be advanced, for people actually interested in climate science. We could really do with a populist science site like WUWT, but with accuracy. Unfortunately, facts and proper analysis probably don't draw as many readers as WUWT's latest feathered up non-story.|