Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reading level

I just checked One Eternal Day's reading level at this site, and the result was:
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Should I be embarrassed? Should I take pride in the fact that, as a high school teacher for thirty-five years, I learned to express myself appropriately for my audience? Is the rating due to my writing, or to the writing of those I quote extensively? Does it have any validity at all?

I would have been much happier if the site had rated a higher level.


  1. Anonymous2:27 PM

    So have you found a way to measure the reading level of the average Seventh Day Baptist congregation? I have heard people say that the KJV, the NASB are just too hard to read, especially for children I would assume the same comment could be made about the ESV.

  2. Actually, the fact that your blog reads at a high school level is great! That doesn't mean that the thoughts are childish or even at a teenage level. It means that your blog is readable and understandable. And that, to me as a writer, is a good thing!

  3. Thanks, Linda.

    It is certainly a matter for concern. I can understand the difficulty with the KJV, since language has changed so much, but the others? I suspect these are people who don't read much at all.

  4. I've thought a lot about what both you and Ken said. I don't want to seem like I'm starting an argument. But I wonder why some people think that being harder to read makes a translation better. I know that NASB is the most accurate of the modern translations, and that's why many people prefer it. But if a person doesn't relate well to the language in that version, wouldn't it be better to read a version with a lower reading level than not to read the Bible at all? I feel there is value in every translation, no matter what the reading level. After all, every translation has some level of subjectivity. It depends on whether the translation team is aiming for formal or dynamic equivalence. Sometimes a verse just speaks to me more from one translation or another.

    I'd like to hear what you both think.

  5. Linda,
    I pretty much agree with you about translations. It is better that people read something they understand than not read at all. However there are reasons for using a larger English vocabulary. It allows for more subtlety in translation.

    I think the comments reflect more on the level of average reading ability than anything else. Our parents' generation seemed able to read the KJV pretty easily and have understanding of what they read. I don't think that's true today, and I think the reason is, in fact, that a great many people don't read much at all.

    I suppose all good translations have their uses, but, for instance, I find The Message impossible to listen to, without the danger of laughing out loud - not because it is inaccurate, but because the choice of image and idiom is often just so excruciatingly inappropriate.

  6. I agree with you about The Message. I find it hard to read more than one verse at a time. The only copy I have (other than on my computer) is a parallel version with the NIV. I have to compare the two to find out what the "usual" translations say. I agree that the idioms just don't seem "biblical" to me. It's a paraphrase that, I believe, will soon pass out of favor because it's based so much on the language of today.

    I agree that the more extensive vocabulary of some translations does allow for the subtlety of translation. But readability is more than vocabulary. It's also based on word length, sentence length, and number of sentences per paragraph. A writer can use a wide vocabulary and still have a piece of writing that has a lower level of readability. If uncommon words are used so that the context reveals the meaning, people can grasp the meaning and increase their vocabulary.

    I do think fewer people read books than in the past, but with all the content on the internet, do they really read less?

  7. One thing I remembered about readability. Syntax has a lot to do with how easily a passage reads (whether from the Bible, classics or contemporary writing). I don't think the readability formulas can measure syntax. But it certain is a factor.

    Here's an example. In Psalm 37:1, the ESV starts "Fret not yourself ..." The NIV reads, "Do not fret ..." The vocabulary is essentially the same, the number of words is the same, yet to me, the NIV is closer to contemporary speech. However, there is a lyrical quality to the ESV. So it really does come down to what you're looking for in a Bible translation.

  8. Agreed. And for private reading, I would encourage anyone to choose a translations they can understand and which reads easily [assuming it is accurate].

    For reading in worship, I would prefer one that has some distinction. The reader is important here, of course.


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