Friday, August 15, 2008

Large Nameless Agency Achieves the Impossible

A zero on the Flesch-Kincaid Readability test. Zero. Absolute rock bottom. I didn't think it was possible for anyone, even government bureaucrats, to produce a document that scores out at totally unreadable, but Large Nameless Agency (or, more accurately, its minions) did.

True, it's not the entire document. It's just one piece of it, a page, a section about three paragraphs long -- at least I assume they're paragraphs. They do seem to consist of orderly strings of words with appropriate punctuation interspersed throughout with an occasional hard return to create breaks between the blocks of text on the page. I just have no idea what they say. I even resorted to diagramming sentences in an attempt to unpack that page, and it's still effectively written in Sanskrit. The individual words are English, but when they're strung together in some sort of strange mutant mix of business school jargon and homeland security paranoia they meld into total impenetrability.

Fortunately, there is hope. There has to be some actual meaningful language hiding in there somewhere because the document as a whole scores a 6.9. Out of 100.

This is the document I'm supposed to edit into some sort of coherent national strategy report, a document that will be easily accessible by Congressional staffers (i.e., ambitious coke heads with poli sci degrees), which in turn means a document that could be understood by a mildly brain-damaged 7th grader addicted to video games. I definitely have my work cut out for me.

I probably didn't win any friends at work today if the persons responsible for this particular section of the draft were anywhere in ear shot. They're already unhappy with me for telling them they suffer from a bad case of acronym overdose, so perhaps I shouldn't have been quite so vocal with the "WTF?! A zero! A zero on the Flesch-Kinkaid! You guys did the impossible! Wait until the other editors in Creative Services hear about this one! A zero! Unbelievable. You guys set a new record for bad writing. Unreal. A zero! I've never seen writing this bad before. Wow. A zero!"


  1. Wow- I thought that kind of score could only be approached by works of post-modern literary criticism!

  2. how about a minus zero..would that have worked?..ha

  3. I believe the infamous 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters rates a 3.1.

  4. And my administrator calls my writing bad. Maybe I could get a government job.

  5. I laughed my ass off at this. How embarrassing for the people or persons who wrote that piece.

    Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.


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