Recent studies have shown that the average reading level for the general population of the United States ranges somewhere between a fourth and a sixth grade reading level; studies from several years ago put most individuals graduating high school as reading at no better than a fifth grade reading level. Do you feel that the content being presented to you has been dumbed down in recent years? Are you surprised at the latest arguments regarding whether or not it is socially acceptable for adults to read young adult novels? There’s a reason.
The average reading level has decreased drastically throughout the years. When I was in intermediate school, (6th grade), I tested at reading at college level, the highest the test would go; most of my classmates capped out at the same rate, with only a few of them hitting eleventh or twelfth grade reading levels, nothing any lower. In today’s day and age, those who are graduating aren’t even close, nor do they really seem to care.
Why This Matters and How it Affects You
It matters for a lot of reasons, but this is neither the time nor the place for a soap box rant regarding the quality of education that students are receiving today. This matters because the majority of content presented on the Internet comes in one of three forms: lolcat, graphic representations, or text. That’s right; most of the information on the internet involves reading. How then can we expect the material that we find relevant, the topics that we find interesting, or the manner in which we convey information to be able to maintain interest, much less be comprehended by the new target markets and audiences that are coming into their best years of buying power? There’s only one thing to do….
How to Deal with It
You’ve got to Keep it simple. Don’t go for the thesaurus, don’t try to make your sentences sound more intelligent, and, much as I hate to say it – try to stay away from those compound sentences. Make your content as easy to understand as possible. Make it so that a sleep-deprived and un-caffeinated version of you would have no issue understanding what you are attempting to convey. It’s frustrating, it’s obnoxious, but unless you’re catering to a very specific crowd, like those who subscribe to Shakespeare Quarterly or only those who have received their Master’s degrees (and yes, this is an over exaggeration, but you get the idea), keep it basic. Remember, everything else aside, your goal is to market and sell your product; to do that effectively the average consumer must be able to understand what you are selling.
Image source: https://jumpcloud.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/simplicity.jpg