"Isn't The Blade and most papers written at a 6th grade level?"
I think news stories are traditionally written at a 5th or 6th grade level, op-eds and columns at a 9th grade level or higher, and the sports pages at a 4th grade level.
October 2007 : Simple writing
Cleveland Plain Dealer Internal Memo: Connie Schultz Writes At 5th Grade Level
Newspaper editors are worried about how to grab readers. And a Cleveland Plain Dealer internal memo from last week urges reporters to keep things simple. Plain English and short, uncomplicated sentences are best. It notes that Sen. Sherrod Brown's spouse, columnist Connie Schultz, has written at a level appropriate for fifth graders. Meanwhile, Washington bureau reporter Sabrina Eaton seems to be rebuked. The memo says she wrote about Dennis Kucinich at a level appropriate for high school seniors, or subscribers to The New York Times. Her "reading ease" score was low.
Excerpts from the PD memo:
The Writer's Group has been discussing Jack Hart's book, A Writer's Coach
. This week we talked about the chapter on clarity. Hart points out that we can test the readability of our stories with the Flesch-Kincaid test
, which is available in all Word programs. To get the Flesch-Kincaid test, click on tools, then spelling and grammar, then click on options and check "show readability scores". The Flesch-Kincaid test expresses scores in grade levels, based on sentence lengths, word lengths and active voice.
"Most writers with Flesch-Kincaid scores of 10 or less can engage a large, diverse audience," Hart writes. He says Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Hallman usually averages about grade 7. "Clear direct writing produces the lowest scorers," Hart writes.
Connie Schultz's Pulitzer finalist, Burden of Innocence, scored at the FIFTH-grade level. Burden had 4 percent passive sentences, 11.8 wps, 4.2 cpw and a reading ease score of 78, the highest of any I tested. Andy's Last Secret, a national award winner from Joanna Connors, also scored at the 6th-grade level with only 1 percent passive sentences.
Web-based readability and style checker