A quote (as pointed out by an alert twitter user) variously attributed to Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cicero, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and Mark Twain states, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Coming across this comment again recently reminded me of the familiar complaint that plain language somehow equals “Dumbing Down.”
No, my headline isn’t just click-bait. This piece really is about Donald Trump.
People in the plain language community have been watching this presidential candidate closely. Specifically, the way he speaks.
It’s been noted that Trump communicates at a lower reading grade level than other candidates. Trump speaks to voters at about a 4th grade reading level. By comparison, Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton come in around an 8th grade level. Bernie Sanders is at the High School level.
After you’ve taken your costumed little ones out to trick or treat the neighborhood and have put them down to bed, you may want to settle down and relax with a book or surf the web for a while. But the terrors of Halloween are only just beginning – beware the many horrors lurking among those pages!
Early this summer, TIME.com asked the Center for Plain Language to evaluate some online privacy notices, using the types of assessment we use for our ClearMark awards and our Federal Plain Language Report Card. I took the lead on the project and learned some great lessons along the way. TIME.com published the article in August.