This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

To find out more about Write, go to or join us on Facebook at

16 January 2011

The unfortunate result of a new Google feature

On Sunday mornings, from the comfort of my bed, I often find myself +iPhone catching up on blogs or twitter posts. The Siegel + Gale post about the Google feature that rates the reading level of web pages dispelled any early morning grogginess! I was at my computer in a flash to check it out.

I'm sure Google had the best of intentions when it created this extra feature mainly to help students, teachers, and researchers I believe but it certainly came with a sting in the tail. The feature rates sites 'basic', intermediate', and 'advanced'. Unfortunately its release immediately prompted headlines such as How Smart or Dumb is Your Site? In other words, highly readable sites using very clear language are 'dumb', while those that use jargon and complex structures are 'smart'.

Blogger Sarah Negugogor put it beautifully when she said, 'if Google had used different words for the reading levels, it might have kept people from rushing to make value judgments. If the levels were named “Clear,” “Intermediate,” and “Convoluted,” do you think people would be bragging about how convoluted their site’s language was?'

Read the full post

No comments:

Post a Comment