I wish to introduce to you a website and its creator Arthur Schiff. He and his colleague have launched The Times in Plain English (http://www.thetimesinplainenglish.com/wp/). As the title suggests this online newspaper has simple and plain English that lay readers can easily understand. He uses stories from six American newspapers: The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The New York Times, The Arizona Republic, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
He subjects text of the selected stories to Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test and edits where necessary to make the language simple for his readers. (What is this test? Please visit link provided in my website, http://newsmansenglish.in/readabilitytest.htm)
His experiment fascinated me because I share his concern for writing plain and simple for the commoners. He responded to my queries yesterday. One of his points provides answer to my search on ‘Who is the reader of my newspaper?’ As part of my study on Language of English Newspapers in India, I have asked this question to reporters and editors of several Indian newspapers.
Are the readers from high/middle/low income group? Elite? Highly qualified? Graduates? Post-graduates? The journalists do not seem to be very clear about profile of the readers for whom they write.
Arthur says his readers are immigrants in USA. They are English language learners. For this class of readers, English has to be simple and plain.
I checked today readability of some stories placed at the home page of his website, using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test. It indicated that his language could be easily understood by eighth to 13th graders of US schools. (In Indian context, this can be high school to junior college students). Statistical data I have collected for my study, on the other hand, suggests that Indian newspapers have several stories that could be understood only by 30th grades of US schools!
Arthur says, ‘I chose America's top newspapers because in so doing I could deliver the kind of information available to America's elite to an audience of immigrants and English language learners. I believe that kind of news would facilitate (their) entry into the middle-class. That is what I think information and words can do.’
Very well said. Shouldn't Indian journalists aspire to do something to help the large number of their readers enter the middle class and above? Shouldn't they write for undergraduate level readers?