Writers, keep readers in mind

Since the Terre Haute City Council passed a resolution on climate change back in August, which was encouraged by a group of local youth, I have noticed several local opinion pieces in the Tribune-Star mostly against it. 

From reading these articles, I would say most of the writers, like myself, won’t live long enough to see the worst effects of climate change. The reason I feel like I can say this is the language used in their articles. According to the American Medical Association, information for the public should be written at no higher than an 8th-grade reading level. That’s not because people are dumb, it’s because most of us lack an attention span long enough to comprehend what is being written. 

On average, high school graduates read at the 9th-grade level, according to readability consultants at the Plain Language Services. College graduates improve to the 12th-grade level. The Wall Street Journal is written at the 11th-grade level. Sometimes writers, myself included, tend to forget the shortest distance between two places is a straight line. 

Like many subjects in today’s world, we need to depend on experts to form our own opinion. We need to accept their conclusions based on their past experience in the field we are discussing. Since experts rarely agree the challenge for the average person is who do you trust. I usually go with the majority opinion unless I am familiar with the subject. I probably couldn’t stay awake long enough to get through a professional opinion written at a PhD level.

With the fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought and pandemics in the last couple of years most of us realize the world is changing around us and we are not sure why or how to handle it. I would like to encourage anyone writing an editorial piece to not quote unnecessary facts and above all don’t try to prove you’re the smartest person in the room. If you have something to say, remember to change someone’s mind, they need to read the whole article even if they start out not agreeing with you.

The most readable content reaches the widest audience. Most of the climate change articles I have read recently are at least at the college reading level. This article weighs in at the 9th-grade, according to Microsoft Word grammar check.

— Ron Gadberry, Sullivan

The Tribune-Star is committed to publishing a diversity of opinions from readers. Email us at opinion@tribstar.com.

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