What is the right reading level for a blog?

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How readable should a blog be?

criticsrant has a reading level test where you simply enter the name of a website and a reading level is produced. The reading level for the toptwoinches is ‘High School’ as you can see.

What should I make of this? Given that I don’t expect actual high schoolers to have much interest in this blog, should I be pumping the level up? Some sites are proud to display this badge as proof that their blog is ‘genius’ level:
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On the other hand, what about all the metablog advice about simplicity in all things? Should my blog’s reading level be even lower?

I’m not suggesting one changes one’s natural, signature style, but it is worth thinking a little about. Let’s assume that the test is dinkum and kosher and that it does measure something called ‘reading level’. Are their any trends that can be deduced from very successful blogs?

Let’s consider some winners of the latest bloggers choice awards.

Best geek blog winner is awaregeek.com which has a reading level of college (postgrad).  Makes sense, right? Best religious blog is what does the prayer really say?. Reading level: elementary school. Huh? Winner of the best political blog is FMK opinion. Reading level: elementary school. What gives?

How about the winner of Best Blog of All Time? That goes to snippets of life. Reading level? Again,  elementary school.

Hmm, maybe my blog too high falutin. Apart from the technical geek site which obviously requires a high reading level, the others can be read and, presumably comprehended, by kids.

But these are award winners. What about the real winners – the super-popular sites? Here are the top four sites on technorati:

Boing boing – genius reading level
Problogger – genius reading level
Techcrunch – college (undergraduate) reading level
Lifehacker – high school reading level

Woudn’t you have predicted it the other way round: pointy-headed prize givers being seduced by clever-cleverness and thus picking blogs with a high reading level; and the unwashed masses going for the easy, lowest common denominator of very low reading level?

If (and admittedly it’s a big if) the criticsrant reading level test is believable, what are we to deduce from the above highly scientific study?

What I take from all this is that a blog can work perfectly well even if written in a manner understandable to young children. On the other hand, there is no need to shy away from writing which requires high levels of reading ability. It must be other factors which matter – quality of the content and writing – things not taken into account by tests of reading level.

11 thoughts on “What is the right reading level for a blog?

  1. I wonder about this too.

    In a comment on another blog I think someone criticised my blog for being above their head.

    I think good content is what matters but that reading level may matter too. For the tips and tricks for happiness blogs I would think the simplest language and earliest reading level would be what I would aim for. For technical how to’s in an industry or niche an older reading age may be appropriate – depending on the niche of course.

  2. evan – Agreed. I have an idea that blogging is actually improving the general standard of writing. One learns how to be concise, stuctured, entertaining/interesting, to cut down on typos – in short to always have the reader in mind. Any blogger who neglects this won’t have readers no matter how smart the ideas are.

  3. Pingback: The Top Two Inches
  4. ama – Funny!
    Actually, the question of how to be smart in the new media is a slippery one, as you know – sounding smart can be really dumb. I grapple a bit with it in today’s post.

  5. i have always prized clear language. from what you write, it seems as if the “smartest” blogs are technical blogs. let us not forget, to paraphrase one of your comments in reply to a comment someone left for you, that our readers are suffering… 🙂

  6. ama – You’re in a good mood today! That’s pretty funny – “our readers are suffering.”
    (Of course, the internet is such that readers don’t suffer for very long – bore or irritate them and another world’s just a click away.)

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