17 June 2010

10th grade level "too complex" for Americans

President Obama's speech on the gulf oil disaster may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday.

Tuesday night's speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. The Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.

Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence "added some difficulty for his target audience," Payack said.

He singled out this sentence from Obama as unfortunate: "That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge -- a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's secretary of energy."
I just did a quick check of the Gettysburg Address.  Average sentence length 27 words, including a final 82-word conclusion.  This country continues to "dumb down."


  1. I think. Obama's teleprompter punctuation. Has a large effect. On the ease of understanding. What he is saying.

    If he were to string. All of his phrases together. Into an actual sentence. It would be easier to comprehend.

  2. You know what the charges would be if he talked to the country like they weren't idiots and used a few big words that everybody should understand: Elitist! Smooth talker! etc. etc. Anti intellectualism is rampant in this country.

  3. Let's assume the 10th grade level actually *is* "too complex" for most Americans. Would that really be a problem in this speech? "Most Americans" didn't watch the speech. I bet anything that those who did watch it had no problems understanding it. The rest just take the sounds bites as dispensed by the media of their choice.

  4. Mike, I'm not concerned about the content of the speech reaching Americans. What bothers me is that a 10th grade level is now considered to be too advanced for the masses to understand. I'm concerned that this country is losing its intellectual skills - language, math, science, logic etc. This would just be one manifestation of that phenomenon.

  5. That just beggars belief that a sentence of that simplicity would be 'too complicated' for the avergae adult in a supposedly modern and advanced country like the US. Even everyday speech must contain sentences longer than 17 words long. If otherwise; what a depressing state of affairs.

  6. I'm an American and it boggles me daily how blindingly mentally inadequate most of my fellow citizens are.

    I don't get too concerned anymore when we get Katrinas or oil spills; as long as the intelligent folks and the wildlife flourish, the idiots can go fuck themselves for all I'm concerned.


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