Readability Results In Rights

The most basic task that the animal advocate must achieve is to be understood. The message should not be lost in big words, confusing symbols, or disorganized ideas. Animal advocates have a responsibility to make their messages clear.

With that in mind, I copied and pasted text from a handful of vegan fliers into a readability tool. The tool determines the amount of education required to understand the literature. It calculates the "Flesch Reading Ease." A score of 90–100 means the literature can be easily understandable by an average 11-year old student, a score between 60–70 can be easily understandable by 13- to 15-year old students, and a score 30 and under means the literature best understood only by college graduates.

Since most of the literature is to be handed out to high school and college students, not college graduates, it makes sense to craft a pamphlet that is easily understood by 13-15 year olds, that is, a pamphlet that has a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 or higher.

The results of my little experiment? Poor.

I won't name names, but here's an idea:
  • An "abolitionist" flier scored a Flesch Reading Ease of 27.46. In comparison, Reader's Digest magazine is about 65, Time magazine scores about 52, and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s. This one page flier was more difficult to read and understand than the Harvard Law Review. (source)
  • Another "abolitionist" pamphlet scored 36.36.
  • A "what's wrong with dairy" flier received a score of 39.48.
  • An animal emancipation style flier scored a respectable 45.79.
  • In contrast, a vegan education booklet scored 61.12.
  • And a "vegetarian starter kit" returned a result of 64.23.
Why does this happen? I think this happens because many of the people who write these hand-outs are smart, educated people who are very capable of understanding complex language. Many have studied philosophy or law and are very comfortable writing in an academic style. But there may be another explanation.

Regardless, we should all learn from this. We should make sure our fliers can be easily understood by most people. By making our message difficult to understand, we're not only failing the animals, we're also excluding a number of people who might very well have become vegan or vegetarian had they received a more readable pamphlet or had they stumbled across a more readable website.

To improve your writing's readability, try using shorter sentences and smaller words.

(By the way, this blog post received a score of 59.55. Not bad, but plenty of room for improvement.)

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