Re: Readability Indexes

Subject: Re: Readability Indexes
From: Stephen Victor <svictor -at- LGC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 17 May 1995 10:29:20 CDT

> Sheryl Curtis asked whether thereadability index capability of various word
> processors could be used to measure the relative readability of French prose.
> Since these tools use word length (syllable count) and sentence length in
> making their calculations, they can be used with various languages. I'd be
> careful, though, to ensure that my word processor has a hyphenation algorithm
> for whatever language I was using to ensure that the syllable-based word
> length calculations are accurate.

As this respondent points out, these "readability indexes" make use of the
(rather shaky) premise that syllable counts and sentence length bear some
relation to "readability." To further extend this notion to the point of
actually suggesting that these indexes can be used with "various languages"
(i.e., plugging in any combinations of syllable count and sentence length) --
without considering the obvious differences in vocabulary, syntax, and grammar
between English and French -- is utterly absurd.

P.S. - No personal flames intended here; I simply have a high regard for the
integrity of language and look on mechanical means of improving one's writing
with a great deal of suspicion. What can these "grammar checkers" provide that
a competent writer/editor cannot?

Stephen P. Victor svictor -at- lgc -dot- com

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