Literacy Review

“Literacy Review” is what we call something I do as a sideline at my day job. My parent organization is a large public hospital. Like most hospitals, our administration has (at long, slow last) embraced the concept of making printed materials for the patient population readable by the patient population. Mostly, patient materials — handouts, medication brochures, discharge instructions — are all written as if our only audience was a room full of doctors. There are a bunch of readability measurement tools out there. I mostly used Fry and Flesch-Kincaid, and the hospital’s written materials flunked every time, registering off the scale in each case. So we spent a sort of bizarrely long time working on a new policy around the creation of materials. My excellent colleague, J, and I developed a staff training to help people learn how to write more accessible materials (I have to say that J really did this single-handedly). While this whole wacky process was playing out, there were materials that needed distributing … and I sort of fell into the role of revising/rewriting them. I’m the literacy teacher, after all.

And I have to say that I don’t mind doing it. (Ok, I didn’t love the “digital rectal exam” information sheet, and I can now tell you much more than either of us ever wanted to know about the side effects of Arixtra!) I like knowing that we’re creating better quality materials, that people will actually be able to read the things that are handed to them. It’s so completely part of the hospital’s mission and part of my one mission as an adult educator. What I mind is that there is a LOT of stuff to be worked through. We’re a big ol’ health care system, doncha know: hospital, community health centers all over the place, a whole slew of community programs … and all of them have materials that need to go out to the patients/clients/community. And then there’s the fact that I have my actual full-time job to work on. Sometimes it’s a bit much.

So add “Literacy Reviewer” to my list of titles. That’s me, red pen in hand, bringing your writing to heel. Then imagine my surprise and pleasure to learn this:

blog readability test

Not that I’ve spent any kind of time thinking about the literacy level of this blog. I’ve been seeing this reading level thing all over the place … but always the one that says something like

This Blog’s Reading Level: Skyrocketing-Off-the-Charts-Genius

or some such. No one ever embraces their accessibility for low-level readers. Well, I’m here to start the trend!

(This rating might come as a bit of a surprise to some people, the people who are always accusing me of using archaic language, of speaking in a way no one speaks and all that. And, as I said, it surprises me, too. But I like it!)

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2 thoughts on “Literacy Review

  1. I did this a while ago and it came up as elementary school and I felt two things simultaneously:
    – that it was appropriate considering the group I spend most of my week with and that it was kind of cool they could read my blog (not that I’d ever want them to)
    – It’s an interesting but silly thing, to equate vocabulary with genius. I’m all for accessibility! Illiteracy is so harmful, but so is elitism and “the language of the academy”

    anyway, thanks for the comments 🙂 treat yourself to a bouquet some ranunculus this week!

  2. I think it’s a sign of intelligence when people speak in normal, simple words so this is definitely something to be proud of. (Even when you do slip into obscure language land.)

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