Sunday, December 16, 2007

A reading age of 12

12. That is the reading age that a tabloid reporter is expected to write for.
That is so people with a reading age of 12 can understand every word, can follow the story and can go from the intro to the end without scratching their heads. How's that for the literacy levels of Australia!

Imagine you are a poor man sending a telegram to an idiot was how one aged journalist once told me.

You will notice that I said that this guideline applies to tabloids. For broadsheets, at least when I worked on one, I was told it was 14, but for specialised publications or for feature pieces you can write to reflect a higher literacy level.

But today I made the mistake of not sticking to the 12 rule and was called rude for what I wrote.

I wrote a straight forward sentence, in fact two sentences. Both of which I considered agreed with the original poster.

I don't want to dumb down my language, as this particular community as a whole is full of articulate people, oh except for when they start drinking and then it's just a hoot and full of spellos, and mine are some of the worst examples.

I've seen exchanges on various boards where the words get nasty and it is a shame that a minority will try to attempt to shame and unsettle or employ passive aggressive language when they just don't have the comprehension to understand a simple exchange of words.

My little tangle today was easily cleared up, but this episode and a few others I have witnessed lately has certainly made me think about the use of the 12 rule in my life.

I have always thought that the 12 rule was over the top, but understood that a lot of children did read the paper and using language appropriate to their reading level was important, not just for informing them, but also encouraging them to continue reading.
But now I'm thinking of the usage of the 12 rule for situations other than that of metro dailies; the need for it in a wider sphere.

Some people seem to have a lot of trouble being able to gauge the intent behind what is written. When there is not audible tone it can be hard for those who don't frequent boards or write or read a lot to discern exactly what has been written.

Now I need to pour a drink and start spelling badly


TinkingBell said...

I expect my readers to have an adult reading age - if they don't then why are they on the internet, reading blogs - and if they want porn (the likely aim of the reading age challenge) then they won't find it here (except yarn porn, of course!)

spiraling said...

I think I recall being told at Uni that the Sydney Daily Telegraph has a reading age of 8, which I found shocking.

zephyrama said...

I've never worked for the news limited (tele) papers but I wouldn't doubt it. When our paper moved from broadsheet to tabloid in size there was fear on the floor that we would have to dumb down more, but so far it hasn't happened. Yet.

Yarn porn is good.