I was recently at a conference for applied linguists (AAAL) and I was talking with a small group about how the health literacy field has over-used readability formulas to help analyze and adjust the difficulty of written content.
I showed the following 2 paragraphs: The first taken from a NYT article about Zika. The first paragraph’s readability grade level, using the Flesch Kincaid, is 12.6 grade. The second paragraph is one I rewrote so that the readability score on the Flesch Kincaid was lower, 7.6.
I then said: “The second paragraph is fundamentally just as difficult as the first.” Please tell me why?
Everyone was sort of stumped.
So, a little help here. Why are the two paragraphs comparable in difficulty?