Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day and what's your reading level, or writing style?

Welcome to Memorial Day. I hope you are having a great extended weekend and sharing it with family and friends and there are good times all around.

A moment if you will though, to remember all those who have fallen trying to maintain our freedoms and our way of life. May we begin once again to remember that we only sacrifice for what is our basic human needs, in defense and no longer for oil. I so look forward, I so do hope to one day see us off that disease ridden fuel. As well as coal and gas. Thank you to all those who have perished in the wars of necessity (certainly WWI and WWII would fall under that), and perhaps more so, thank you to all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for reasons of power and ill judgement.

Also, it seems to be a national paradigm going back to before this country was founded, to even the Revolutionary War, to not properly take care of our veterans. This is a small but profound and powerful, impact filled request: Can we please do that, take care of our vets? I'm a vet, I hadn't seen battle but I'm horrified at how our vets are being treated; like trash no longer needed, to be thrown away or simply, ignored. As usual in government, if they don't know what to do, they ignore it, misdirect us in order to keep their jobs, but they do nothing.

Nothing is defined here as not doing enough when vets are left in need, with treatments when they can even get them that are poor, or completely wrong, with back logs on appointments for months or years when they needed help yesterday. Part of the issue comes from our longest wars, turning out our biggest numbers of patients, something that should have been seen at the start, and does not have the numbers of needed healthcare workers, doctors and mental health specialists. Our only recourse now is to turn these patients loose in the private sector along with the rest of America, as single payer supported patients. That being said, Vets should not have to pay for this healthcare as do the rest of us with co-pays and deductibles. I do fear their getting abused in that way. Regardless of their volunteering for battle, we pushed them into it and so, we should pay their way.

Our government is famous for waging wars, on other countries, on drugs, on women's rights, on the poor, minorities and illegal aliens. Stop waging wars and focus on this. If and when we send people to fight and die for us, people who come back damaged in taking our places for us on the battlefields that we send them to, then let's take care of them afterward; let's suffer our woes privately in how much the money hurts us to do so; let's shut the hell up about it and bleed money for them, as they have bled their own blood and suffered through the same with their battlefield compatriots. We owe them at very least, that.

Okay then, that was uplifting. Moving on....

I found an interesting little web site where you can paste in some of what you have written and it will analyze it and tell you who you write like; what famous author's style you imitate. It's called,

Since I've been working on re-editing my book Death of Heaven, I pasted \ analyzed some passages from the chapters within it. I got various author similarity ratings, kind of as I'd expected. I have always tried hard to not write my style all the time but to choose a style that fits that story, more than myself. If and when possible. This analysis would seem to support that. Not that it's perfect, but it's kind of fun.

By the way, I should finish up the re-edit on my book this weekend and will be re-releasing it soon. Keep an eye out for it. Hell of a book, if I do say so myself. I'm working on finding other author blurbs on it. Yes I'm shooting for the sky in Clive Barker. We shall see.

Anyway, here's what I got off that author style web site.
  • First from the short opening chapter, The Steppes, I got James Fenimore Cooper. 
  • From, The Conqueror Worm chapter I got Stephen King. Not surprising perhaps.
  • Rosebud came up with both S. King and David Foster Wallace.
  • From, Harbinger and Going Home, Dan Brown. Bummer. Well, his books are enjoyable enough pulp and I would love to have his income (or even his tax return).
  • Still, another part of Harbinger gave me James Joyce. Well, I'm in good company anyway.  
  • A Thirst Divine gave up Bram Stoker (awesome) but another section of that chapter reverted back to King.
  • Marking Time gave me Stephen King again. Hmmm... seeing a pattern here.
  • From later in the book and the book's longest section, Vaughan's Theorum, I got Harry Harrison. 
  • The Mea Culpa Document of London (which actually refers to a document not included in the book, but is available in another book of mine, Anthology of Evil), a short section, came up with... Dan Brown again. I did three paragraphs and all were Danny boy. Which I suppose isn't surprising considering his genre and style as this section is supposed to be a professionally written, academic document about an antique document, much like Dan writes about much of the time. 
So what about all this? I don't know what I'd have had to do to come up with Clive Barker. Maybe they didn't include him in the analysis? Well, I don't know, why are you asking me? Still, it was kind of fun. It reminds me of a time before college when my friends complained that they didn't understand what the hell I was writing about half the time, in my stories with no endings (see, I was terrified to attempt endings back then). Especially one story they challenged me to write, "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear". I promised them I'd write that at my most comfortable and then write stories that were easier to read.

Years later I ran that story through one of those grade analyzers which tells you want grade level a piece is written at and it came up grade seventeen; so the first year of Grad. Yeah, I don't know either. After that I tried hard to write at a more general audience level like newspapers and magazines do, at around 9th through 12th grades. I like to believe that today's reading levels have gone up. Average reading level in 1935 was grade 7.8. So yeah, I think it's gone up a bit.

I just read on a web site that said "The average newspaper is written at the 11th-grade level, the tolerable limit for a 9th-grade reader" and that people generally like to read about two grade levels below their ability to read. It also said that, "experts recommend writing documents intended for the general public at the 9th-grade level, health and safety information at the 5th-grade level." Okay then....

Through most of my life I have preferred to read mostly above my grade level, with a peppering of slightly lesser works for pure guilty pleasure. My grandmother used to tell me that every other book we read should be uncomfortably above our skill level. So I always did that (literally; I didn't try to do that, I followed it like gospel) while growing up and yes, I spent a lot of time not understanding, at first and wondering why I was doing it. But over time it paid off, and much of that I was later able to remember and eventually understood.

Reading levels are something to consider, both for the reader and for writers.

As writers we need to know our audience and write for them, always trying to elevate though not talk down to them. As readers it is our responsibility as it is in all communication, to understand more than we need to. In interpersonal communication some people think that it is the job of the communicator to communicate. Which is somewhat of a fallacy.

Indeed it is the job of the communicator, he or she who is speaking, not only to convey their meaning, but also to see to it that the one being communicated to, understands. That, is always not the case. There is nothing more annoying than someone who speaks over your head and then after the interaction, you are clueless as to what they just said. It's a waste of time to both the individual listening, but mostly and more likely, simply an ego trip for one of those involved; most probably, not the more ignorant one involved in the intercourse.

As for the one being communicated to, it is our job in listening, to, well... listen. But also to understand. To, THINK. Reference what is being said, store some information, remember some key words for later, in case you need to look something up; rethink it, in order to better comprehend it. A word or sentence spoken, is something that should last beyond the words spoken. Otherwise, it's just common speech which should be used for commanding and acknowledging in merely getting through the day. Other than that, speech should convey and instruct, and educate.

We've mostly lost that common way of speaking now a days. Our leisure speaking tends to be fluff mostly, about sports, or celebrities, TV shows or films. When we should be talking about science, politics, philosophy, family dynamics, life. Things that enhance our lives and culture. No doubt we all need down time and fluff has it's place. But in a world where we are supposed to "seek our bliss", to "pursue happiness", we've kind of gone off the deep end. A little ice cream is good, but a fifty gallon barrel is too much. The trouble is, our stomachs physically let us know when we've overdone it (not that you could tell from the average weight of an American, but still....). Our minds however will allow us to "eat" all the crap we could ever want, with no real warning (like weight gain or diabetes) and all we get out of it is an addiction for more and a bloated and ignorant mind (supported by the internet where there are plenty more of the same).

So look, have fun, don't get me wrong. Do have fun, just don't kill yourself, or your mind, or the rest of us, over it.

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