Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blog Readability

Blogger Perpetua of Carthage found one of those fun and funny online tools. She linked to a site that purports to test any blog address to see what level of education is required to understand the blog. Then she posted the results from her favorite conservative and various "liberal" blogs.

She's a denizen of the regressive blogs like SFiF & Co. So you won't be surprised to see that all her favorite "conservative" bloggers rank in the college or "genius" level, and all the "progressive" blogs (mine included) get quite lowly ratings. Of course, she was selective in her selections. (You're surprised by that??)

Frankly, I'm happy with my rating. I've been dismayed to learn that the current recommendation is that – in technical writing or writing for a general audience – one should strive for about a 7th-grade reading level. Looks like I'm pretty much on track. Her analysis shows I'm writing for a "junior high school" level.

Though I have a Master's degree in Literature (and a permanent A.B.D. in same) from Vanderbilt, I pride myself in writing clearly, simply, and directly. I leave the complex writing to my blogfriends like Tobias Haller, Mark Harris, & co.

It's amusing to me that the anonymous "Perpetua" didn't choose to sample some of our brightest and best progressive bloggers like Mark Harris' "Preludium" (scores at "College Undergraduate level"), Tobias Haller (scores at "College Post Grad" level), The Episcopal Majority ("College PostGrad"), Episcopal Café ("College Undergrad"), Elizabeth Kaeton ("College Undergrad"), or Thinking Anglicans (Genius level). And Grandmère Mimi weighs in at "College Undergraduate" level, too.

It seems to me that the regressives are as selective in their blog analysis as they are in their interpretation of Holy Scripture. Aren't you shocked and surprised??

25 Comments:

Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

Hey! We have the same alma mater...

And I rated High School level---which suits me just fine. My goal in my writing life has always been to write for my grandmother--who is a self-educated (highly so) high school dropout...

5/29/2008 12:01 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

No kidding? You survived Vanderbilt?? I survived the English Dept. there for my M.A. and thru doctoral coursework. But I'm more proud of my B.A. work, which was at the University of Dallas.

But in both places, I was taught to write directly and clearly ... as I think you were. I think Perpetua's "reability" meter is a croc. What do you think?

5/29/2008 12:06 AM  
Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

ABD in Political Science (finally took my master's and ran). 1987-1994.

Eh. I'm skeptical about readability stats. You can do something similar with Microsoft Word...

Bottom line---can my grandmother read and understand what I write? If so, I'm golden! ;-)

5/29/2008 12:13 AM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

I have no idea what a permanent ABD might be, but I hope it isn't too painful.

The blog analyzer decided that simplemassingpriest was "College: Post-Grad."

But then, I'm a high-falutin' Trinity (Toronto) man, whose principle learning from that esteemed institution was how to stick my nose in the air and how to disparage the place across the street.

Met agona, stephanos and all that.

5/29/2008 12:18 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

What a funny, small world! I was at Vandy from 1978-82. Took my M.A. & ABD and ran. Adored Nashville. Can't say the same about Vanderbilt. But that's probably my fault; I wasn't cut out for a big state school.

Sounds like we have a similar approach to writing: It needs to be simple -- no matter how complex the concepts may be. That approach has taken me far in my professional writing life. (And it's probably what's kept me away from that effete "Covenant Communion" blog.)

Thanks, Doxy. It's fun to chat with you.

5/29/2008 12:21 AM  
Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

Malcolm---ABD= "All but dissertation."

Which means you endured the departmental politics, the deadly boring classes, and the dreaded comprehensive exams---but got no doctorate. Sigh.

Lisa--like you, I adored Nashville and loathed Vanderbilt. My particular department was a snake-pit---known all over campus for its dysfunctionality. Unfortunately, no one told me that BEFORE I got there...

But that's okay. As much as I miss teaching, I don't miss grading a BIT! And I have work I love and a schedule that *I* control. God is both wise and merciful...

5/29/2008 12:25 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Oh, pshaw, Malcolm+. {grin} I know you can theologize around me in circles.

Folks who get their Master's degree, then complete all the coursework and other requirements for a Ph.D. but don't write a disssertation are termed "ABD" [which is, being interpreted, "All But Dissertation]. And, for me, a "permanent ABD" is somebody who just knows she's never going to go back and do the dissertation.

Think of it like a perpertual virgin. ;-)

So ... the blog analyzer has you in that lofty plane with Tobias, eh? Obviously, I need to give you more respect. I shall work on that.

5/29/2008 12:30 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ditto about the Vanderbilt snake-pit, Doxy. When I was there in the early '80s, there must've been 20 professors in the English Dept. ... but not a single one of them were women. Only men got the rank of "professor." Let the reader understand.

5/29/2008 12:33 AM  
Blogger FranIAm said...

I have taken that test so many times, but it was not until today that I felt ok about my high school designation.

You? Junior high. Well then that is a Jr. High that I would like to attend!

I always feel so badly about myself as I have no advanced degree. Why am I spitting this out here?

Well because I am really praying about what is next in my life and going to graduate school comes up in my discernment over and over again.

A lack of time and money seem to be in the way.

Which I know to mean is an invitation and not an obstruction.

You write a post - I treat it as a confessional. Feel free to throw me off, but please say a prayer for me.

Doxy already knows my crazy story- I need work, but I long for school.

5/29/2008 10:16 AM  
Blogger Perpetua said...

Hi Lisa, you say:
"She's a denizen of the regressive blogs like SFiF & Co. So you won't be surprised to see that all her favorite "conservative" bloggers rank in the college or "genius" level, and all the "progressive" blogs (mine included) get quite lowly ratings. Of course, she was selective in her selections. (You're surprised by that??)"

Actually, I did include the conservative blog Baby Blue which got a Junior High School rating and the progressive blog Anglican Scotist that got a Genius rating. (You're surprised by that??)

And I do agree with you that readability is a good thing. In fact, the point of the site that does the ratings is to sell their services in making blogs more understandable for readers.

Oddly enough, when I created that post on Sunday, my own blog scored as College Undergraduate. Now I find this morning that it gets a Genius rating. What have I done wrong???

5/29/2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

So, does an ABD mean that, notionally at least, one could wander back at any point, do the dissertation and get the doctorate?

5/29/2008 10:39 AM  
Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

So, does an ABD mean that, notionally at least, one could wander back at any point, do the dissertation and get the doctorate?

Only if I had *completely* lost touch with reality AND someone was holding a gun to the head of one of my children...

(Holding it to my own head would not be a threat, in that instance...)

Prayers for you, Fran. Just so you will know---graduate school is a whole different kettle of fish than undergrad. E-mail me and I'll tell you all my horror stories---not to put you off the idea, but so you can go into it with your eyes open, and your armor on. ;-)

5/29/2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger Barbi Click said...

Oh, my, I checked my blog and it rated as Elementary level...hmmm.
Of course, I am from Fort Worth, doncha know. My MTS just doesn't compute to the blog, I suppose. LOL
My thesis prof at Brite told me I would never make it as a primary theologian because what I wrote made sense. I took that as a compliment and I will take this rating as one too. :-)
My grandmother (who is still living well) also left school early. I would never argue theological points with her.

5/30/2008 10:33 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

FranIAm, let me echo what Doxy said yesterday: Don't go to graduate school because you love a certain topic or discipline. In many schools, the purpose of grad students is to be beat up by professors with insecurity complexes. They don't necessarily respect or appreciate your appreciation of the field. BE CAREFUL!

5/30/2008 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Lindy said...

If your speech/writing is above people's heads it doesn't prove that you're any smarter than them, it only proves that you're a bad shot.

I don't know what my blog would be. Probably kindergarten. But I'm writing it for myself not for the benefit of a computer program.

Take pride in your "low" ratings! You're tops with me.

5/30/2008 7:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Perpetua, I observe that you included one highly-rated progressive blog, and one low-rated conservative blog. I think you were pretty selective, with an agenda to advance.

But I'm quite happy with my rating, as I hope I explained here.

I can read the abstruse blogs like Communion Covenant. But I sure don't enjoy their self-satisfied effete navel-gazing. I have a preference for clear, straight-shooting bloggers, especially those who are willing to express complex concepts in clear prose. That's my bias.

5/30/2008 8:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Hey Barbi, I'm delighted you dropped in.

Of course, I too have a Texas education ... so I sympathize.

Why is it that some folks contrast clear writing with deep thoughts? I dunno.

5/30/2008 8:20 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I agree, Lindy. For me, the point isn't fancy or intellectual writing. It is: Does the writing communicate to the readers? That's why I'll take folks like Mark Harris and Tobias over the scalliwags at Communion Covenant any day of the week and twice on Sundays! Some people write to communicate; other write to convince us they're really smart. Give me the former any day of the week.

5/30/2008 8:23 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Rowan (the ABC -not our friend the dog) speaks in obtuse language - many seem to think he is deeply intellectual - Now Rowan the Dog - is one smart pup and gives kisses too.

5/31/2008 8:35 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Touché, Ann. Q.E.D.

5/31/2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger Perpetua said...

The one thing progressives and conservatives agree on -- the language of the Archbishop of Canterbury is obtuse.
Is he a "Genius" or merely a convoluted and indecisive muddler?

5/31/2008 11:07 AM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

Perpetua said: "Is [the Archbishop of Centerbury] a "Genius" or merely a convoluted and indecisive muddler?"

I believe the correct answer is, "yes."

6/01/2008 12:13 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Malcolm beat me to it! I agree that the answer is "yes."

6/01/2008 12:44 AM  
Blogger FranIAm said...

Lisa and Doxy- thank you for your words. I am someone who really struggles with this.

I always feel like a bit of a hack in life. I have done very well professionally (whatever that means) but without the necessary education. I have a B.A. in Communications Studies from a state school and I have always felt inadequate.

I was always a poor traditional student, Doxy knows my story and why that probably was.

That said, all insecurities aside, I can say at 50 that I do have some sense of being very bright, very intelligent, no matter how hard that is to say out loud.

In any case, going to school right now is not an issue based on time and money for one thing. I am seeing my last severance check on the near horizon, I am not employed and I am loathe to be so.

So we will see what happens, but I continue to struggle with this and am surprised at my own ability to speak of it openly here today.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

6/01/2008 8:28 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Fran, there's a lot there to which I'd like to respond.

Your mention of being near your last severance check sends chills down my spine. I suspect a lot of us are just a couple of paychecks away from homelessness. I'm dealing with that myself, as I find myself in a job that feels more and more tenuous.

This is my bias, and I can get quite adamant about it: It disgusts me that the American educational system in the last couple of decades has turned university education into vocational training. I had a fine liberal arts education, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. But when folks like you and I sense a need for more training, there should be something other than the academy available to us. And that training should be accessible to you ["not a good traditional student," in your words] as well as me [a very good traditional learner].

That was a rant, I suppose. But it does tick me off that people who need skills are forced into academia.

I believe the educational system in this country has lost its soul.

6/01/2008 6:53 PM  

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