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  1. #1

    Study: Lawmakers talk like 10th-graders

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefi...-10th-graders-

    Members of Congress talk like 10th-graders, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis released Monday.

    The quality of speech in the Congressional Record this year has dropped almost a full grade level since 2005, to 10.6 from 11.5, with an even faster decline among more conservative members, according to the study.

    The analysis is based solely on the use of longer words and sentences and does not analyze clarity. The Flesch-Kincaid metric has been used to measure reading complexity in schools and has also been applied to founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence, which was written for someone with a 15th-grader's comprehension, and the Constitution (a 17th-grader).

    Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) is identified as the legislator with the simplest speech. He speaks like a sixth-grader, according to the study, while Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) has the most complex speech of any member in the 112th Congress. His speech is the equivalent of a 20th-grader, according to the analysis.

    Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), a freshman who has had the second-lowest grade level overall since 1996, told NPR's Tamara Keith that his mother might be embarrassed, "but I'm glad to know I'm not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated."

    President Obama's three State of the Union speeches, delivered to a joint session of Congress, were all ranked at the eighth-grade level.
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  2. #2
    To be fair, big words are not necessarily more important than content and clarity. Nonetheless, I am still not surprised. I have taught middle schoolers and high schoolers in recent months, and the sophistication of just about everything in language - whether grammar, spelling, or vocabulary - has gone down in the last few years. I don't need a thorough analysis to know that. :)
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    Reagan was known as the Great Communicator because he could convey his message at a level that everyone could understand.
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  4. #4
    Wow this story is an insult to high school kids everywhere.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by AUTaxMan View Post
    Reagan was known as the Great Communicator because he could convey his message at a level that everyone could understand.
    No matter how one feels about Reagan politically, his ability to talk to and understand everyday people was admirable.

    And am I the only one that thinks this is a really weird study?
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by pghin08 View Post
    No matter how one feels about Reagan politically, his ability to talk to and understand everyday people was admirable.

    And am I the only one that thinks this is a really weird study?
    am I the only one who has no desire to talk like a 20th grader?
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ensbergcollector View Post
    am I the only one who has no desire to talk like a 20th grader?
    Lol. How do you determine the difference between "19th" and "20th" grade speak? Does the 20th grader use the word "abecedarian" more often than a 19th grader or something?

    (In my personal life, I use big words a lot, but it doesn't mean I'd be a good lawmaker, maybe I just enjoy word of the day toilet paper)
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by pghin08 View Post
    Lol. How do you determine the difference between "19th" and "20th" grade speak? Does the 20th grader use the word "abecedarian" more often than a 19th grader or something?

    (In my personal life, I use big words a lot, but it doesn't mean I'd be a good lawmaker, maybe I just enjoy word of the day toilet paper)
    It's prevalent in a lot of research writings. It's almost as though people use big words and obtuse language purposely so readers can't necessarily critique them as well as they otherwise might. Like a pissing contest in that sense. Kind of the same thing with textbooks in higher education.

    It's an interesting issue because, while in education and research that kind of writing is touted, in most practices people want concise, clear language. It's funny in general because most people's writing skills are poor in any case.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by themanishere View Post
    It's an interesting issue because, while in education and research that kind of writing is touted, in most practices people want concise, clear language. It's funny in general because most people's writing skills are poor in any case.
    +1. As an English major who has worked several jobs, this is the truth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by themanishere View Post
    It's prevalent in a lot of research writings. It's almost as though people use big words and obtuse language purposely so readers can't necessarily critique them as well as they otherwise might. Like a pissing contest in that sense. Kind of the same thing with textbooks in higher education.
    This is definitely true. You'll notice its prevalence in critical writing as well (e.g., of film, food, etc.). I always chuckle when I read critiques because they only come across as self-important to me, and I know that 99% of the people reading them can't fully understand what they're reading.

    The thing the eggheads don't realize is that there is genius in writing at a 10th grade level while concisely and precisely conveying your position and at the same time NOT coming across as if a 10th grader wrote it. As lawyers, we struggle with this every day.
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